Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay a total $240,000 in salary and back pay to the former employees of an Augusta, Maine, restaurant that the company shuttered after the workers tried to unionize.
The settlement payouts — which are based on pay rates, average hours and seniority — will range between $5,800 to more than $21,000 to each of the affected employees.
“This isn’t just a victory for Chipotle United. It’s a win for food service workers across the country,” said Brandi McNease, a former Augusta Chipotle employee and lead organizer of the Chipotle United union. “It sends a message to corporations that shutting down a store and blackballing workers didn’t work for Chipotle and it won’t work for them either.”
Chipotle, which did not admit to wrongdoing as part of the settlement, has denied the allegation that union-busting was behind its decision to shutter the Augusta location last July. At that time, the company said the closure was because of difficulty finding staff. But the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor relations at most US businesses, filed a complaint in November alleging that the closing was an effort to defeat the union organizing.
“We settled this case not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy and cost to litigate would have far outweighed the settlement agreement,” the chain said in a statement Monday. “We respect our employees’ rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.”
McNease told CNN on Monday, however, that she believes “there was no good reason for them to shut down that store.”
As part of the settlement, the former Augusta workers will be given preferential treatment for hiring at other Chipotle restaurants in Maine. Though the nearest Chipotle is now more than 30 miles away from Augusta, McNease said she and some of her former coworkers are planning to carpool together to other stores.
“I know two or three workers have moved onto other jobs, but most of us just want to work with each other again,” she said.
One other Chipotle location in Lansing, Michigan, has voted to be represented by a union. Workers at a New York City Chipotle have also announced an organizing effort and staged one-day strikes, although that location has yet to file for a formal union vote overseen by the NLRB.