Chipotle union organizers say they’ve been blacklisted by fast food chain

Workers who attempted to unionize an Augusta Chipotle have filed an additional complaint against the company, alleging that the fast food chain is blacklisting those who were part of that organizing campaign by refusing to consider hiring them at other locations in Maine.

The group that workers formed out of the union campaign — Chipotle United — filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), according to a news release Monday, arguing that the company is discriminating against the ex-employees for exercising their right to organize a union. 

The filing comes as workers have also accused Chipotle of union-busting at the Augusta restaurant. As Beacon previously reported, employees at that location filed to form a union in June. That came after workers protested conditions at the store by walking off the job earlier in the month, arguing that persistent understaffing and a lack of training was creating an unsafe environment. The store was temporarily closed after that. However, it was then permanently shut down by Chipotle just before a hearing to determine the union process for workers, according to a news release from employees who were organizing the union.

Workers have characterized the closure as being clearly related to the union drive, and members of Chipotle United are continuing to push back against the company, gaining national attention. They have also filed a complaint with the NLRB over the company’s decision to close the Augusta restaurant amid the unionization campaign, which was a first among Chipotle employees nationwide. 

According to the news release sent out Monday, former employees at the Augusta restaurant saw last week that a Chipotle in Auburn was hiring. Workers tried to apply online but discovered that the fast food chain had “locked them out from using their email addresses that the company already had on file,” the release stated. 

The lead organizer of the Augusta union drive, Brandi McNease, then sent in an application for the Auburn location using a different email address. That application went through, the release said, and the Auburn location quickly scheduled an interview with her. 

But McNease said before the interview could take place, she got a call from the manager of the Auburn restaurant, who said they had been told by the company’s regional manager not to interview McNease because of what they described as her “attendance problems.” 

McNease disputed that claim. 

“I never was counseled, let alone disciplined, for any attendance issues,” she said, adding that she had been told by the regional manager the day the Augusta restaurant was closed that she was still eligible to be rehired at Chipotle. 

The Chipotle union group’s release says the NLRB complaint centers around the allegation that the company is refusing to consider hiring McNease again because of her labor organizing activities. Workers noted that McNease has been widely quoted by local outlets (including Beacon) and national media sources about the Augusta union drive and subsequent closure of the restaurant.  

The news release also stated that along with McNease, Chipotle did not offer laid-off employees at the Augusta restaurant the chance to transfer to the company’s other locations, such as its five restaurants in Maine. That mirrors what a former worker at the Augusta location and current member of Chipotle United, Laramie Rohr, recently told Beacon

“The fact that they are not sending us to other stores, not trying to get us hired at other Chipotles or anything like that is a demonstration of bad faith,” Rohr said in late July. 

Chipotle’s corporate office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Beacon

Top photo: Workers at the Augusta Chipotle | Courtesy Maine AFL-CIO

About Evan Popp

Avatar photoEvan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)mainebeacon.com.

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