December 2, 2022

The closing of a unit by Chipotle prevented it from unionizing. Or did he?

A point of agreement is generally a plus in relations between an employer and a staff seeking to unionize. That’s not the case for Chipotle Mexican Grill and former employees at its Augusta, Maine, store, the chain’s first unit to seek union representation.

Workers said they had to organize in part because the restaurant was chronically understaffed. Management offered no defense or disagreement. Instead, the company closed the unit, saying it couldn’t recruit enough employees to keep the doors open. The store has gone dark, but so have the local team’s hopes of unionizing.

Was this a brilliant move of management jujitsu, using the staff’s own complaint to thwart their organizational effort? Or was it a high-handed ploy that will anger staff in other Chipotle units enough to join a union?

That’s one of the questions addressed on this week’s episode of Working Lunch, the government affairs podcast co-hosted by directors of Align Public Strategies and restaurant industry veterans Joe Kefauver and Franklin Coley.

They agree that Chipotle’s move is likely to elicit a swift and forceful response from current pro-union directors of the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that regulates labor elections.

“The ferocity and speed with which they act will likely determine whether this tactic emerges in the future,” Coley said, noting that Starbucks has also been accused of closing stores to prevent them from being unionized.

Seasoned lobbyists also examine how the NLRB works with various other federal agencies to protect and promote organized labor.

Check out this episode and every episode of Working Lunch by downloading it from anywhere you get your podcasts.

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