Former Augusta Chipotle workers reach $240,000 settlement with restaurant chain after closure

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:33 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 9:59 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Former workers of the Chipotle in Augusta announced they have reached a settlement with the fast-food chain after Chipotle closed its doors last year when the workers tried to form a union.

Brandi McNease, co-founder of Chipotle United says the fight was not easy but it was worth it.

“$240,000 in backpay and forward pay,” McNease said.

To be divided among the 24 employees on the roster July 19 of last year.

“This is the amount that Chipotle would have spent on labor if they did not close down the store and a small amount of forward pay,” McNease said.

Ethan Watts was an employee and says this never about the money.

“The union was a means to an end, to make sure that we had the amount of staffing and training and time for everyone there so that they all had a chance to be safe on the job,” Watts said.

He says safety was one of the concerns they had before they rallied together to demand a change and recalls the day, he says they had enough.

“There were, I think, two people manning an entire kitchen that was meant for at the least 7 people,” Watts said.

The National Labor Relations Board found that Chipotle broke the Federal law when they closed the store hours before a union hearing, although Chipotle says the closing had nothing to do with the union activity.

McNease says the settlement agreement also includes preferential hiring for the former workers.

“At any time in the next 90 days, anyone employed on the day we were shut down can ask to be hired at another Chipotle location in the area and will be hired before any other applicant,” McNease said.

Chipotle said in a statement in part: “We settled this case not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy and cost to litigate would have far outweighed the settlement agreement. We respect our employees’ rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act and are committed to ensuring a fair and just work environment that provides opportunities to all.”

Meanwhile, McNease says this settlement shows that workers have the power to make a change.

“We really wanted to send the message that corporations who feel like they have too much money to follow the law don’t,” McNease said.