Chipotle restaurant in Michigan votes to unionize, in a first for the chain

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A Chipotle Mexican Grill sign is seen in the Park Slope neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

A Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Lansing, Michigan, became the chain’s first location to vote to unionize.

Workers at the store voted 11 to three in favor of unionizing under the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, according to the tally conducted on Thursday.

“We’re disappointed that the employees at our Lansing, MI restaurant chose to have a third party speak on their behalf because we continue to believe that working directly together is best for our employees,” Chipotle spokesperson Laurie Schalow said in a statement to CNBC.

Chipotle has five business days to file objections to the election. If Chipotle opts not to file any objections, the National Labor Relations Board regional director will certify the results, and the company is required to start bargaining in good faith with the union.

“Chipotle pulled in revenue of $7.5 billion last year, and just as we’re seeing workers of all ages and backgrounds across the country take on these corporate giants, it’s so inspiring to see Chipotle workers stand up and demand more from a company that can clearly afford it,” Scott Quenneville, president of Local 243, said in a statement. “The Teamsters have these workers’ backs. They’re going to have a union they can be proud of, that knows how to get things done.”

The Lansing location was the second-ever Chipotle restaurant to file a petition with the NLRB to unionize.

In late June, a Chipotle restaurant in Augusta, Maine, became the chain’s first outlet to file for a union election, seeking to organize under Chipotle United, which is not affiliated with any larger unions. The company permanently shuttered the location after the petition was filed, citing staffing problems. Chipotle United has filed a complaint with the NLRB, claiming that the move was retaliatory.

The win for Chipotle organizers in Michigan comes on the heels of more than 200 Starbucks cafes in the U.S. voting to unionize in the last 10 months. Despite recent high-profile efforts, unions are a rarity in the restaurant industry. Only 1.2% of workers at food and drinking outlets were members of unions last year, which is well below the private-sector unionization rate of 6.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sophie Tremblay

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