A Chipotle Restaurant in Lansing, Michigan Becomes First in Chain to Unionize

Chipotle is the latest major company to catch the unionization bug, joining an ever-growing movement looking to establish better workers’ rights. Located in Lansing, Michigan, it’s the first of nearly 3,000 Chipotle locations across the U.S. to successfully unionize.


According to NPR, employees initially filed for a union election on July 5, aiming to improve schedules and increase wages. The effort was surely bolstered by the support of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has 1.2 million members across many industries. 

"Today's victory is an amazing moment for our team that has worked so hard and spent many months organizing," said Samantha Smith, 18, a crew member who has worked at the location for over two years. "We set out to show that our generation can make substantial change in this world and improve our working conditions by taking action collectively.”

Labor unions have historically been opposed by major companies as they’re known to impact business autonomy. Companies even go so far as to invest millions into anti-union campaigns. This is evidenced by an Augusta, Maine-based Chipotle which also filed a union election petition in July before the location was permanently closed shortly thereafter. 

"Forming a union will allow us to have a true voice on the job and force Chipotle to address our concerns," said Harper McNamara, 19, a crew member who, like Smith, has also been there for more than two years. "I am so proud of all those who were involved in this effort, and showed the courage needed to take on a huge corporation."


Unsurprisingly, a Chipotle spokesperson expressed disappointment over the victory:

"At Chipotle, our employees are our greatest asset, and we are committed to listening to their needs and continuing to improve upon their workplace experience," Chipotle's chief corporate affairs officer Laurie Schalow said in a statement. "We continue to believe that working directly together is best for our employees."

Ironically, employees typically seek external solutions to better conditions when they feel unheard. Time will tell whether unionization moves beyond a trend and continues to become more widespread.