Workers Accuse Chipotle, the ‘Food with Integrity’ Company, of Abuses

Steve Vidal had worked at Chipotle Mexican Grill in Brooklyn for two years, moving from burrito folder to service manager, when he finally decided to quit last summer.

He said he grew frustrated of last-minute changes to his schedule, of managers retaliating against employees who complained by cutting their hours and of a murky sick-leave policy that left him wondering how to get his paid time off.

Mr. Vidal was one of more than 30 current or former Chipotle employees in the area who complained about working conditions at the restaurant to the city and to 32BJ SEIU, a local union trying to organize fast-food workers.

On Tuesday, after investigating the complaints, New York announced that it was suing the company for violating the city’s Fair Workweek Law.

The city is seeking at least $1 million in restitution for workers and penalties.

In its complaint, New York accused Chipotle of abusing workers at five of its locations in Brooklyn, including the one where Mr. Vidal most recently worked.

One current employee noted the irony of a company that constantly heralded its “Food with Integrity” mantra not taking the same approach with its work force.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they treat the animals better than they treat us,” said Jeremy Espinal, 20, an employee at a Chipotle in Greenwich Village.

The city said the lawsuit, filed with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, was the first one brought against a publicly held corporate fast-food chain under the law, which was meant to give hourly workers more stable schedules and paychecks.

The Workweek law, which took effect in November 2017, requires that fast-food companies notify workers of their weekly schedules at least two weeks in advance.

Workers have to agree in writing to last-minute schedule changes and employers must pay workers a premium for making these changes. Companies are also required to give workers the opportunity for additional hours instead of hiring more part-timers.

Read more at the New York Times >>


Fast Food Organizers Persevere In Face Of Managerial Threats

New York, NY – Trying to organize around fundamental workplace protections in the fast food industry is no easy task — not when simply taking to co-workers about unionizing could get  you fired or your hours cut.

City College senior Jahaira Garcia, 21, would like to see her Chipotle co-workers in Kips Bay, Manhattan become industry trailblazers and vote to unionize. But fear of managerial reprisals have made the young union organizer “picky” about who she’ll even talk to about unionizing.

She says “trying to communicate with my co-workers, trying to make them understand what is the union and how it will benefit us — and [then] trying to make sure they don’t go to the general manager — or the next thing I know, I’ll be the one fired,” are two of her biggest challenges.

The last time talk of unionization reached the bosses ears, Garcia says managers were quick to inform new hires that if they decided to join the union, they would be forced to pay for their own lunches and uniforms.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, you can’t be “fired, disciplined, demoted or penalized in any way” for trying to unionize. But the fast food workers that spoke to LaborPress say that managers have, indeed, punished pro-union workers.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s going on,” 20-year-old fast food worker Jeremy Espinal says. “A lot of people don’t know that they can fight and that they have rights to organize and form a union. And that’s what the company wants — they want us to play dumb and be quiet.”

Read the full article on LaborPress.


Fast Food Workers Deserve A Voice On The Job And A Contract

New York, NY – The Fight for $15 campaign launched in 2012, succeeded in lifting the minimum wage, but without a union, fast food workers at McDonald’s Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and the rest of the big chain eateries, are still vulnerable to on the job sexual harassment, intimidation, wage theft, unreliable scheduling, favoritism and more.

A nebulous franchisee model that helps shields parent corporations from responsibility coupled with high turnover rates and intensely high levels of job insecurity — all contribute to making it extremely difficult for organizers to convince wary coworkers to unionize.

Bernie Sanders’ recently unveiled his “Workplace Democracy” Plan and goal of doubling union membership during his first term in office as president of the United States — but fast food workers in this town are already pressing hard for union representation despite the existing roadblocks in their way.

“I have a service manager who’s about 20-years-old and he’s screaming at a 65-year-old [worker] — and no one speaks up,” 21-year-old Chipotle worker Jahaira Garcia tells LaborPress. “There is no respect there at all. It’s very devastating.”

Working fast food may be hectic, but Chipotle worker Jeremy Espinal, 20, says he welcomes the hard work and likes interacting with customers. What he can’t abide, he says, is a workplace “culture” that continually seeks to demean and disrespect employees.

“They do this kind of stuff to beat you down mentally and make you feel that you’re not doing good enough, so that they can milk you and get the most that they can out of you,” the Hunter College student says. “Managers beat down the workers, they make them feel crappy and all of this stuff. They also hold over you, the fact that you can be fired at any moment.”

The Service Employees International Union [SEIU] started partnering with fast food workers in the Fight for $15 campaign seven years ago, and continues to support workers in the fight for unionization.

Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU, says that as revolutionary as the Fight For $15 campaign has been — it’s time to truly fulfill the goal of unionization.

Read the full article on LaborPress.


Fast Food Workers Can Be Fired For No Reason. A New Bill Could Change That.

The New York City Council is considering “just cause” legislation to enshrine fairness and dignity for fast food workers. It could become a model for other cities and industries.

Francis Gomez vividly remembers the day she was fired from her cashier job at a Taco Bell in Queens, New York. Just before last Christmas, she showed up for her shift when a manager told her, “Don’t clock in; you’re terminated.” The firing stunned Gomez, 27, who had worked on and off for the fast food chain since 2014.

“I was completely surprised. I was accused of disrespecting a customer, but there was no customer complaint,” she said. “When I asked for a letter, I was basically told, ‘At this point, you’re already terminated, so it doesn’t matter.’”

Taco Bell hasn’t responded to Civil Eats’ request for comment about its firing practices, but stories like Gomez’s are one of the reasons New York City Council members Brad Lander and Adrienne Adams have introduced “just cause” legislation to give fast food workers more job protection. The bill prohibits fast food companies from firing workers or significantly reducing their hours without a stated reason and would give employees the chance to correct their behavior before termination. With this legislation, New York City could lead the nation in offering job security for fast food workers.

Read the full article at CivilEats.


NYC Bill to Ban No-Cause Firings May Be Double-Edged for Unions

A first-of-its-kind proposal to ban New York City fast-food restaurants from firing workers without “just cause” may revive a point of tension among allies that typically rally behind pro-worker legislation.

The bill, introduced by Democratic City Councilman Brian Lander, describes “just cause” as an “employee’s failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or misconduct that is demonstrably and materially harmful” to the business. Lander told Bloomberg Law that the goal is to protect fast food workers who struggle with job insecurity in an industry notorious for high turnover, low wages, and resistance to unionization.

Labor law observers say the proposed ordinance has the potential to take hold across the country—like the Fight for $15 movement changed the national debate and produced minimum wage increases across the U.S. Seattle and Austin officials have indicated they’re watching the New York proposal with an eye toward introducing similar legislation, Lander said.

Read the full article on Bloomberg Law.


Don’t Fire Me Without Just Cause: Fast Food Worker Makes the Case for City Council Legislation

For nearly four years, I have been a full-time student by day and a fast food worker by night, working as a crew trainer or often at the drive-thru window at the McDonald’s at 840 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn.

That is, until my manager fired me unfairly two days before Thanksgiving last year.

Unfair and unceremonious job termination for nonexistent or trumped up reasons, fear and retaliation are what we workers deal with most often in the fast food industry. I’ve seen co-workers fired because the manager was in a bad mood or, in one worker’s case, a manager said she had to go because she created “bad vibes.”

Read the full article at NY Daily News.


Fired For Not Smiling Enough? US Fast-Food Workers Fight Unfair Dismissals

New York bill that could apply in other states would give workers stronger protections if they’ve been fired unjustly.

It’s easy to get fired in fast food. According to a recent report, one fast-food worker said she was fired because her nails were too long; another because she said she didn’t smile enough. That might be about to change.

In a first-in-the-nation effort, a city council member in New York moved on Wednesday to make the city’s 60,000 fast-food jobs a lot less precarious – introducing legislation that would prohibit fast-food restaurants from terminating employees except for “just cause”.

“Workers have told me they’ve been fired for no reason at all,” said Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat who introduced the measure. “Should employers have the right to fire people for any reason, including the most trivial reasons? Most people would say that’s not a right people should have.”

Read the full article at The Guardian.


News & Commentary on Fast Food Labor

Yesterday New York City Council Members Brad Lander and Adrienne Adams introduced two bills that together would require fast-food corporations to demonstrate “just cause” for discharging employees.  The legislation has a broad definition of discharge, encompassing “termination, constructive discharge, reduction in hours [of at least 15% per week], and indefinite suspension.”

Just cause is defined as an “employee’s failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or misconduct that is demonstrably and materially harmful to the fast food employer’s legitimate business interests.”  In addition to laying out the just cause requirement, the primary bill provides for a 30-day at-will probationary period and for a system of progressive discipline.  Under the law, workers would be able to appeal discharges through an arbitration proceeding designed by a joint committee of fast food employees and employers and their respective advocates.  The secondary bill mandates that layoffs be based on seniority to prevent employers from structuring unfair firings as layoffs.

The bills were introduced alongside a report from the National Employment Law Project, the Center for Popular Democracy, 32BJ SEIU, and Fast Food Justice detailing the toll that at-will employment has taken on fast food workers in the city.

Read the full article at OnLabor.org.


New York City Fast-Food Workers’ Next Target: Unfair Firings

For fast-food workers, who already earn low wages and often work multiple jobs to make ends meet, abrupt firings represent an existential threat. In interviews with the New York Times, workers said they’ve been fired for a number of banal or even potentially discriminatory reasons.

Melody Walker told the newspaper that her Chipotle manager fired her for “not smiling enough.” Princess Wright, who worked in fast food while attending Mercy College in the Bronx, was fired after giving her manager prior notice that she wouldn’t be able to make her shift. One woman was fired from her job at Arby’s after she showed up 30 minutes late to her shift. She had a compelling reason for her tardiness: She’d survived a domestic violence dispute.

These stories aren’t surprising, as U.S. employment law tends to tilt power in favor of management. New York, for example, is an at-will state, so employers can fire workers for nearly any reason that doesn’t violate federal, state, or city anti-discrimination protections.

Read the full article at NY Mag.


El Concejo Debatirá la Incertidumbre de los Trabajadores de Fast Food

A Francis Gómez, de 26 años, la echaron de Taco Bell el pasado 12 de diciembre después de un altercado con un encargado de repartos de GrubHub. Gómez, que se hace cargo de su mamá, no es extraña en el departamento de recursos humanos de la empresa porque ha mandado más de una queja por las condiciones de trabajo. Sin embargo, cuando la echaron del trabajo dice que no recibió ninguna explicación.

“Ya me tuvieron que readmitir una vez porque me echaron después de reportar acoso sexual y es ilegal que me despidieran por ello”. Pero esta vez no hay ni explicaciones ni investigación sobre el altercado. Solo su despido de una compañía en la que empezó a trabajar en 2004.

Gómez es una de las personas que el miércoles se dieron cita en las escalinatas del Ayuntamiento para apoyar la propuesta de los miembros del concejo, Brad Lander y Adrienne Adams para prohibir el despido sin causa justa.

Lea el artículo completo en El Diario.

Shopping Basket