New York, NY – This week, hundreds of fast food workers and their allies in organized labor took to the streets of Manhattan in a rising tide of militancy that could, before it’s over, force McDonald’s, Dominos, Chipotle, et al. to finally accept a unionized workforce.
New York City has already gone ahead and codified Fair Workweek rules in response to capricious and chaotic scheduling practices that benefit the fast food giants, but wreak havoc on the ability of working men and women to take care of their own business at home.
Nevertheless, in addition to challenging the legality of those Fair workweek rules — fast food workers say their grill bosses continue to flout the law.
Chipotle is nationwide chain that trumpets itself as “food with integrity,” yet here in New York City, it is facing more than a $1 million in fines for allegedly abusing workers. The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection [DCWP] is currently investigating nearly half of the 82 Chipotle outlets located citywide.
In light of all this, fast food workers who rallied outside the Chipotle store on 6th Avenue and 13th Street in Greenwich Village, on Wednesday, October 23, declared “We have to fight to get a voice within the company — without having our voice heard within the company, we aren’t anything.”
“Our managers and our bosses will step all over us. We have to show them we aren’t afraid,” said McDonald’s worker Rosa Rivera.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer called Chipotle’s scheduling practices “indefensible.”
“We will not stand idly by while people try to violate the Fair Workweek law or skirt it,” Brewer said. “It is particularly offensive to see a company like this one wrap themselves in a brand and motto of ‘food with integrity’ — they are not ‘food with integrity.’”
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and New York State Senator Brad Holyman [D,WF-27th District] also publicly chastised Chipotle at the rally.
“These should be good jobs; full time jobs; family sustaining jobs — not poverty wage jobs,” said 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg. “A company’s path to profitability should not be the abuse of their workers. I call on Chipotle, I call on McDonald’s, I call on all of these fast food empires to stop their abusive tactics — give workers a voice, give them justice on the job, pay them a fair wage, give them dignity and give them safe working conditions.”
John Santos, 32BJ VP and New York Metro District residential division director, invoked the union’s successful “Fight for $15” campaign.
“Seven years ago, fast food workers were making $7.25 an hour. They fought for a $15 an hour minimum wage — and did they get it? We want justice served; full-time workweek, full-time hours,” Santos said. “They want dignity and respect. We’re here to make sure they get dignity and respect.”
The PR flacks that Chipotle dispatched to offset Wednesday’s demonstration and march along 14th Street handed out “Fact Sheets” that touted the fast food chain’s wonderful employee benefits and canned testimonials, but declined to comment further.
“We are from all walks of life,” Chipotle worker Brianna Augustin said. “Today, we stand up to speak the truth about our working conditions. We want a future where our children will not have to deal with the economic injustices that we are facing now. Our employers have repeatedly violated New York City’s groundbreaking worker protections Fair Work Week law. We’re trying to organize and have voice in the fast food workplace. Our employers have retaliated against us.”
The expected mom had a pointed message directly for Chipotle managers.
“Your retaliation, reduction in work hours will not intimidate us or force us to walk away from our jobs,” Augustin said. “We are not victims. We are here to take a stand. We are here to unite and organize.”