Chipotle in Maine has become the first restaurant in the chain to apply for a union election

A customer carries a Chipotle bag in front of a restaurant in Santa Clara, California, U.S., on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill in Augusta, Maine, petitioned for a union election on Wednesday, becoming the first burrito chain restaurants to join the latest regulation campaign sweeping across the country.

The Maine said AFL-CIO That workers in the restaurant “demand safe and adequate staff in their shop”. According to the organization, the employees are seeking to join a union called Chipotle United, which is an independent union.

“We received notice of a petition today. We respect the rights of our employees under the National Labor Relations Act and are committed to ensuring a fair, equitable and humane work environment that provides opportunities for all,” said Lowry, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, Shallow said in a statement to CNBC Thursday.

The Kennebec Journal, which first reported the workers’ petition, reported that workers at the site walked out last week in protest over employment issues. Workers told the local newspaper that they were sometimes asked to falsify food temperature records because staffing shortages meant they didn’t have time to check as many times a day as required under food safety rules.

Schlow said Augusta employees initially raised their concerns last week and the company immediately began hiring and training additional staff, retraining existing workers and bringing new leadership to the site.

The company, based in Newport Beach, California, said it does not have any union sites and that the Maine Store is the first to file a petition.

Workers are organizing in airlines, retailers and technology companies, motivated by a desire to improve working conditions during the pandemic and the newly gained strength in a tight labor market. Even the restaurant industry, where unions are scarce, has not been immune to union payments. Baristas in more than 150 Starbucks coffees have voted to join a syndicate in the past nine months.

Chipotle employees have tried to join unions previously, but the chain has successfully suppressed those efforts. In 2019, the National Labor Relations Board accused the company of violating federal labor law by firing a New York worker who was trying to organize a union.

Workers at a few New York City locations allied themselves with the Service Employees International Federation. They held a rally in late May for better pay and schedules but haven’t run for union elections yet.

Chipotle’s workplace conditions have already come under fire from regulators and employee issues. Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company, alleging it had created a toxic work environment by allowing a male manager to sexually harass young female employees at a Washington location. New York City has sued Chipotle multiple times for violating its laws about giving workers enough notice on their schedules.

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