Meet the workers who unionized the first Chipotle in the nation
Share Now on:
Samantha Smith was 16 years old and making $10.25 an hour at a Chipotle in Lansing, Michigan a couple of years ago. That was a little over minimum wage at the time. It was her first job in the fast food industry and she was hoping to save enough money for college. She spent most of her time washing dishes.
“I was on the verge of quitting,” she said, adding that the water and long hours were affecting her hands.
“Every night, I had skin coming off my fingers, my fingerprint scanner on my old phone didn’t work for like two months after I stopped doing dishes, like I was recovering my fingerprints,” she said.
Smith, who is now 18 and studying for her associate’s degree at Lansing Community College, said she wasn’t the only one who felt overworked. So did other co-workers, like 23-year-old Atulya Dora-Laskey. They had no other choice but to unionize, he said.
“So it is like, ‘OK, if you’re, if your job here sucks, why don’t you go get a different job, where the same problems are still going to be present?’” Dora-Laskey said. “And this is the same power dynamics are still going to be present. And I think that is really what made us feel like that there was no place to go on really.”
After months of organizing, in August, employees at the Chipotle voted 11 to three in favor of unionizing. They joined the local International Brotherhood of Teamsters after looking at a number of unions.
Many companies are unfair to workers, said Dora-Laskey. “The only way to fix that is to come together with your co-workers and start pushing for changes.”
Now, the Chipotle workers are helping to organize other Chipotle shops around the country.
In a written statement, Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, said she is “disappointed” about the union win and said Chipotle offers competitive wages, tuition reimbursement and health benefits.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.