Maybe they’re so worried about their employees forming labor unions that they are willing to lie and break the law to stop them. Maybe they are just so arrogant and depraved that they don’t care how obvious their misdeeds are.

Either way, the illegal, union-busting actions in Maine of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks should force communities and customers to rethink their relationship with these brands. At the very least, they should demand more from them.

Chipotle Mexican Grill workers hug in June after Brandi McNease, far right, dropped off a letter about starting a union at the restaurant in the Marketplace at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

We knew it was bunk when Chipotle company officials closed its Augusta store abruptly in July, just after employees there had become the first in the nation to signal their intent to unionize. The company’s reasoning was preposterous. Its retaliation against Augusta employees certainly appears to run afoul of labor laws. Last month, a former chairman for the National Labor Relations Board called the company’s actions in Augusta “devastating, diabolical activity.”

But now comes news that Chipotle, after saying it was shutting down the Augusta location because it was too “remote,” is planning a restaurant for Waterville.

What’s more, the company is lying about it. A Chipotle spokeswoman told the Kennebec Journal they have no plans for opening a location in Waterville, but application materials submitted to the city and the Maine Department of Transportation say otherwise.

What a way to start your relationship with customers and potential employees, first by cutting and running on their counterparts a 20-minute drive away as soon as workers began asking for regular schedules and more support, then by lying to their faces about their intentions.


It would be jaw-dropping behavior if it wasn’t so commonplace. Just 70 miles or so away in Biddeford, much the same thing is happening.

Workers at a Starbucks there became the first to join Starbucks Workers United, a nascent nationwide labor movement, when they voted in July to unionize.

Since then, workers say, management has thrown away union flyers, taken down posters informing of workers’ rights, and cut store hours.

Just as with Chipotle, Starbucks corporate officials are denying that it is retaliating on efforts to unionize. They say they are supportive of workers and their right to organize.

But just as with Chipotle, their actions put the lie to those claims. The NLRB has issued 26 complaints against Starbucks, finding merit in 97 separate allegations encompassing 634 alleged violations of the law.

Sometimes, they slip and let out the truth. The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, has been very critical of unions, even indicating he would not bargain in good faith with a union, as is required by law.

But most of the time, they just push on through the dishonesty, hoping that enough people won’t notice, or won’t care, and will still fill their drive-thrus.

Shouldn’t we ask for more from the companies who want to employ and serve the members of our communities?


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