NEW YORK, NY – Fired Chipotle worker Brenda Garcia today announced 32BJ’s filing of Unfair Labor Practice charges under the National Labor Relations Act accusing her former employer Chipotle of retaliation against her for her union activity, and of creating an impression of surveillance of union activity. Ms. Garcia was fired after calling out sick, weeks after being featured in a New York Times story where she talked about Chipotle’s scheduling practices that were leaving her without enough hours.
Chipotle has a history of mistreating workers. Last year, New York City sued Chipotle, alleging nearly 600,000 violations of the Fair Workweek law in two years. Yet since then, workers have reported that Chipotle continues to violate the Fair Workweek law. In November 2021, workers at nearly a dozen restaurants filed new complaints with the City accusing Chipotle of continuing to violate the Fair Workweek law or New York City’s newly passed Just Cause law that protects fast food workers from unfair terminations and reductions of hours. Of these complaints, four have been found to have merit, three have been dismissed, and the rest are pending resolution.
Current and former NYC Chipotle workers spoke out today about their experiences of managers sitting them down to talk after they engaged in union activity, and their concerns drew support from labor and elected leaders.
Garcia said: “I spoke out publicly to the New York Times about my struggle to get more hours and a better schedule from Chipotle. Then, a higher up in the company started showing up to my store. Once, I heard him loudly talking to my store manager about how he needed to find out which workers had been talking to the union, and about how he didn’t want us involved with the union. Finally, just this past week, after I called out sick in order to deal with a painful dental issue, my store manager confronted me on the street on the way to a pharmacy, loudly berating me and calling me a liar before firing me. This kind of conduct is outrageous and Chipotle must be stopped.”
Current Chipotle worker Eric Rameriez said: “I’ve had a number of issues on the job, from disrespect to favoritism and unfair scheduling. So I started speaking to union organizers about how to make change at Chipotle. One time my manager saw me speaking to an organizer in front of the store, and the very next day sat me and my coworker down, suddenly interested in any issues I might be having. They had never done that before.”
Current Chipotle worker Alyssa Roman said: “My coworkers and I went on strike to protest the lack of respect, favoritism and the lack of a security guard at our store. When they found out the strike was going to happen, they brought in the Field Leader, one of the higher ups, to work alongside us that day, which I felt was an attempt to intimidate us. After the strike, they were suddenly very interested in speaking to us about our issues.”
Current Chipotle worker Yeral Martínez said: “Things got so bad at our store with the lack of respect, short staffing and Fair Workweek violations that we took action by going on strike for a day. After that, our Chipotle Field Leader showed up and started sitting each of us down one by one, asking what our issues were and making promises to fix everything. The Field Leader had never taken an interest in us like that before.”
Former Chipotle worker Damani Samuels said: “I was having a lot of issues at Chipotle around short staffing. It seemed like they never scheduled enough people, which made it hectic and stressful at work. If anyone called out, it got even worse. But the only time my manager showed interest in my issues was the day after he saw me speaking to a union organizer outside the store. Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. After one nightmare shift when I had to cover the line by myself during peak lunch time, I left the job.”
Former Chipotle worker Richard Figueroa said: “My coworkers and I came together to protest Chipotle’s short staffing and lack of respect by going on strike. I also spoke at a press conference about Chipotle’s violations of the Fair Workweek law. The very next day they fired me, for lateness. But I think it was retaliation, and that’s why I filed a complaint with the help of the union under the city’s Just Cause law.”
United States Representative Grace Meng (D-Queens) said: “Stories like Brenda’s are troubling and underscore the necessity for employers to address the needs of their workers, and treat them fair and with respect. Employers must respect the right to organize and not subject workers to intimidation and unfair practices. I am proud to stand with working men and women, and their fight for fair working conditions as well as good wages, benefits and job security. I thank 32BJ for shining a light on these types of stories, and for all it continues to do to support our working men and women.”
32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said: “I’m so inspired by everything Chipotle workers have done to take a stand, demand a say, and hold Chipotle accountable. From paid sick leave, to the $15 minimum wage, to Fair Workweek protections, to the Just Cause protections for fast food employees, workers have consistently stood up for and won basic workplace protections. Firing a worker after she speaks out is unacceptable.”
With more than 175,000 members in 12 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers’ union in the country.