On Thursday, August 25, staff members of a Lansing-area Chipotle restaurant voted to form a union. The workers will be forming with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The next steps consist of polling workers to find out what should be included in the upcoming contract which will be brought to the bargaining table.
The organizing seems like a timely event in honor of the celebration of Labor Day, a holiday which pays tribute to the dedication and hard work of American workers.
Alma alumnus Atulya Dora-Laskey was among the staff members to inspire a union organization and is optimistic about the changes being made.
“The unionization of Chipotle workers is an important step to helping workers build collective power to not only improve their working conditions and pay but also the entire country. I’m very excited to be part of an organizing effort to help unite fast food workers into a union,” Dora-Laskey said.
Along with his excitement, Dora-Laskey also explains what got the wheels in motion for forming a union.
“For a while many Chipotle crew members tried bringing up concerns and requests up to management individually only to get ignored––and in one case even fired. We decided that this wasn’t workable, and that the history of workers in this country pointed to unions being the only solution.”
Dora-Laskey also recognizes possible drawbacks to workers unionizing. “The most prominent drawback to unionizing is that sometimes a corporation will try to informally retaliate against you for unionizing,” he said.
“There have been a lot of Starbucks and Amazon workers who have been fired over the last year after they helped lead union efforts at their stores. Retaliation like this just goes to show how much power a union can give workers.”
Further emphasis was placed on how the Chipotle company did not agree with the idea of their employees unionizing, where they acted “super concerned” about workers paying union dues.
“One aspect they kept mentioning was that we would pay dues to a union. Like any organization, unions take money to run. Dues are great because it means that your union is accountable to you and your coworkers, no one else. With the Teamsters, we would also get to vote on our contract before we start paying dues, and no one would vote for a contract where they were making less money than before,” according to Dora-Laskey.
Maris Fett, another Alma College alumnus who is a union organizer for the Michigan Nurses Association, expressed how the recent union organization could impact other fast food chains, as well as benefit other workers.
“I think this will benefit the union in general. I definitely think this has really inspired a new generation of union leaders,” Fett said, further mentioning that a few popular chains with locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have also decided to unionize based on the action of other businesses. “Similar businesses are realizing that if [other] places are doing it, [they] can do it too. It really is amazing.” As of September 1, workers of the Lansing-area Chipotle location are fearing closure after voting to unionize. Nevertheless, thirteen other Chipotle locations in the states of New York and Maine are documented to unionize.