Chipotle will pay $240,000 to workers in an Augusta, Maine store for shutting down the location after workers petitioned to unionize, according to the Chipotle Union.
“After seven months, Chipotle United announced today that we have reached a settlement with Chipotle Mexican Grill in the lawsuit against them regarding the illegal closure of our store and retaliation against our union members by refusing them work at other locations,” the union said in a tweet.
Chipotle closed the store in July of last year, just one month after employees petitioned to unionize and scheduled a union vote. Chipotle announced the store would close on July 19—the same day the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) scheduled the vote. The Maine store was the first Chipotle to petition to unionize, according to the NLRB.
The settlement money includes back and forward pay for all employees at the store from the day it closed. As part of the settlement, workers employed at the Augusta store can ask to be hired at any other store and have preference over new applicants for the next 90 days.
Chipotle will also post notices in 40 stores across New England admitting wrongdoing in closing the Augusta store and educating workers on their unionization rights.
“This posting will acknowledge how Chipotle Mexican Grill broke the law by retaliating against Union and a commitment going forward to not interfere with the rights of their employees,” the union said.
In a statement, Laurie Schalow, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Chipotle said the company closed the store because of staffing issues, not because the store voted to unionize.
“We settled this case before any hearing or any formal decision on the issues not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy, and cost to litigate would have far outweighed the settlement agreement,” Schalow said.
The settlement comes at a time when support for unions is at a 50-year high. Just last week, Starbucks workers nationwide went on strike to protest the company’s lackluster union negotiations. Over 250 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize, but the first union contract has still not been signed.
On Monday, President Joe Biden tweeted out support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, encouraging Congress to pass legislation that would expand workers’ rights.
“I’m sick and tired of companies breaking the law to keep workers from organizing,” Biden said in a tweet. “It’s time to pass the PRO Act – workers have a right to form a union.”