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Battling the Burrito Bowls

Chipotle to pay $240,000 after closing store that tried to unionize

Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Monday that it will pay a $240,000 settlement to ex-employees of one of its Maine restaurants after it closed the location when employees tried to unionize.

The Mexican fast-food chain announced in 2022 that it was permanently shuttering the store in Augusta, Maine, after the employees there filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold union elections. The NLRB said that this closure was illegal, and sued Chipotle. 

Following months of negotiations, the Maine AFL-CIO announced the nearly quarter-million-dollar settlement, which also included a number of conditions for the company. This includes posting notices in 40 stores across New England admitting they broke the law, and not continuing with any more union-busting efforts. The store also said any ex-employees would get preferential treatment if they re-applied. 

Each ex-employee of the store will receive between $5,800 and more than $21,000 from the settlement, CNN reports, based on pay rates, hours worked, and salaries. 

The settlement is "a win for food service workers across the country," Brandi McNease, a former Augusta Chipotle employee, said through the AFL-CIO. It "sends a message to corporations that shutting down a store and blackballing workers didn't work for Chipotle and it won't work for them either." 

In a statement obtained by The Associated PressChipotle said it had settled the lawsuit "not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy, and cost to litigate would have far outweighed the settlement agreement." 

Chipotle added that it "respects our employees' rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act" and is "committed to ensuring a fair and just work environment that provides opportunities to all."

There are currently at least 10 other open labor practice cases against Chipotle, AP reports