Chipotle is permanently closing a store in Maine before labor regulators have a chance to try to join unions.
Fast-food chain told FOX Business Wednesday that its Augusta restaurant, which has been closed since June 17 “due to staffing challenges,” will be closing permanently.
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The shutdown comes after the majority of the store’s 20 employees petitioned the National Labor Relations Board in June asking for a union election. It was the first time any Mexican food chain sites had asked for regulation, according to NLRB filings.
The NLRB confirmed to FOX Business Wednesday that a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss details of the election and Chipotle’s objections to the referendum. However, the meeting was officially postponed indefinitely after the company announced that it would be closing the store.
Still, Chipotle United, the The group that was trying to unite Augusta, keep fighting. After Chipotle’s announcement, the group filed an unfair business practice complaint with the NLRB. Unfair labor practice, as defined by the Labor Council, is “an action taken by an employer or a union that violates the National Labor Relations Act.”
Labor organizers claim that Chipotle is retaliating against their efforts to organize workers and trying to send a message to other stores that might attempt similar tactics.
“We’re calling this union Breach 101,” said Jeffrey Young, a lawyer for Chipotle United, the group that was trying to create a union for the Augusta store.
Meanwhile, Chipotle chief corporate affairs officer Laurie Schalow has blamed the shutdown on staffing issues.
Shallow said in a statement that the company tried to keep the store open for training “while we have made extraordinary efforts to try to staff the restaurant, including by deploying two recruitment experts dedicated to this restaurant.”
However, “Despite these efforts, we were unable to staff adequately This restaurant is remote with staff and still suffers from excessive recalls and lack of availability from existing staff.”
It’s hard to find managers for the site, Shallow said.
“Due to ongoing staffing challenges, there is no prospect of reopening in the foreseeable future, so we have made the decision to permanently close the restaurant,” she continued.
Augusta employees will continue to receive severance payments and assistance in finding new jobs.
According to the NLRB, the parties have until July 27 to show reason as to whether an election hearing should take place or whether the petition should be dismissed outright.
Chipotle operates more than 3,000 restaurants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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