Aug 26, 2022 - Economy

Chipotle workers vote to unionize at Michigan location

A customer orders food at a Chipotle restaurant

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Momentum behind unionization efforts in the U.S. gained more steam this week, as workers at a Lansing, Mich. Chipotle became the first location in the chain's history to vote for a union.

Why it matters: It's the latest milestone for the fast-food industry where unions have struggled to gain traction due to the size of franchises, the franchise model itself and high worker turnover, the Washington Post reports.

  • Just 1.2% of food and beverage workers were members of unions last year, CNBC noted, compared to the private-sector unionization rate of 6.1%.

Details: Thursday's 11-3 vote took place in the parking lot of the restaurant with two contested ballots, the Post reports.

  • The workers, who voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, cited wages and scheduling as among reasons for their efforts.

The big picture: The beginnings of mass unionization efforts started to appear during the pandemic as a new era of worker empowerment began.

What they're saying: "We set out to show that our generation can make substantial change in this world and improve our working conditions by taking action collectively," Samantha Smith, an 18-year-old worker at the location, said in a statement.

What Chipotle is saying: “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,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle's head of corporate affairs.

The big picture: Corporate profit margins are at their highest in over 70 years, Axios' Matt Phillips pointed out this morning.

  • And it's within some of the most profitable companies — including Amazon, Apple, Google — that union efforts are starting to take hold for the first time.
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