New York, NY – Already facing more than a $1 million in fines for allegedly violating Fair Workweek rules, fast food giant Chipotle insists it is “working” on complying with city law — but employees who walked off the job in Midtown this week, say the fast food joint is just finding new ways to illegally mess with workers’ schedules.
“I can’t survive on the hours that are being picked and chosen to go to certain people,” Chipotle grill man Jeremy Pereyra said outside the 6th Avenue and W.56 Street eatery on Monday afternoon. “I feel that something has to change.”
Passed two years ago, the city’s Fair Workweek Law compels fast food chains to give workers “good faith estimates of when and how much they will work, predictable work schedules and the opportunity to work newly available shifts before hiring new workers.”
“We are finding out that stores, including the one we are standing in front of, are not complying with the law because they are trying to find loopholes to do scheduling in a different way,” Council Member Keith Powers [D-4th District] told LaborPress.
Instead of granting requests for additional hours, Pereyra and his co-workers say Chipotle managers continue to accept new hires, while encouraging existing employees like them to apply for additional shifts — at separate Chipotle outlets around town.
“Hello, Attached are the current open shifts available at Chipotle locations throughout your borough,” states an open shifts memo directed at Chipotle workers and obtained by LaborPress. “All open shits are considered temporary. You may accept all hours or a portion of the hours for the offered shift(s); however if choosing a partial shift the remaining shift hours can not be less than 3 hours.”
“This new ruse by Chipotle is a clear violation of the Fair Workweek Law,” 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said in a statement. “The law requires that fast food employers systematically offer existing employees open shifts before hiring new staff. But that’s not what workers are telling us is happening. Workers at the 56th & 6th store say their supervisors still hire new staff but tell current workers to apply to other Chipotle stores to fill open hours there. That is not how the law is supposed to work.”
SEIU — Service Employees International Union — successfully spearheaded the “Fight for $15” movement back in 2012, and 32BJ has been working closely with Chipotle workers throughout NYC in their fight to organize for better working conditions.
Last week, another group of Chipotle workers walked off the job at a Downtown eatery to protest ongoing Fair Workweek violations. The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection [DCWP] is now investigating more than 20 Chipotle outlets throughout the city for allegedly violating the Fair Workweek Law.
Chipotle complains that the filing of those charges was “unnecessary” since the company has been “working cooperatively with the city to ensure we have systems and processes in place to comply with the law” and will “continue to cooperate with the city.” Chipotle also claims to be “addressing any prior noncompliance concerns.”
The fast food chain, however, might also be betting on the Supreme Court of the State of New York overturning NYC’s Fair Workweek law. Chipotle’s allies from the Restaurant Law Center issued a prior statement insisting “the judicial process should be completed before punitive enforcement action [against Chipotle] is taken.”
“This is about basic justice,” Powers said this week. “We passed a law here in New York City a few years ago — it wasn’t an academic exercise. It was meant to be followed. It was meant so that people like Jeremy and the folks that work here at this store and throughout the city get basic stability in their schedules, have an understanding of what their schedule is like and can build their lives around their jobs. They should not be left to wonder what their hours are going to be today. They shouldn’t be asked to go across town to go work at a different store.”
The chair of the City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee is not ruling out legislating stronger Fair Workweek rules and enforcement. At the same time, Powers says fast food workers are best served by a union.
“Having an entity representing them is still the best way to be organized,” he said.