Brandi McNease, right, talks to co-workers in June before dropping off a letter about starting a union at the Chipotle Mexican Grill at the Marketplace at Augusta. The national restaurant chain later closed its eatery in Maine’s capital city. McNease said she was denied an interview at the Auburn Chipotle because she was blacklisted by the company for her efforts to unionize. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The shuttered Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Augusta should reopen, its former employees should be offered their jobs back with back pay and the company needs to bargain with the unionized employees, according to a sweeping complaint issued late Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board.

The complaint alleges Chipotle violated the National Labor Relations Act when it closed its Augusta restaurant July 19, the same day a hearing had been scheduled as workers sought to unionize following workplace health and safety concerns.

Workers at the Augusta Chipotle were thought to be the first in the United States seeking to organize a union at the restaurant chain back in June.

In an announcement released Thursday to the news media, Brandi McNease, the lead organizer for Chipotle Workers United and a former worker at the Augusta Chipotle, said the complaint filed by the board shows “how corporations are working to exploit American citizens, even going so far as to blatantly break the labor laws meant to protect us.”

“They know that they are in the wrong and now so does everyone else,” McNease wrote in the statement.

In a statement Thursday night, Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer for Chipotle, said the company plans to “vigorously defend ourselves on this matter” because “closing the Chipotle restaurant in Augusta, Maine, had nothing to do with union activity.”


“Our operational management reviewed this situation as it would any other restaurant with these unique staffing challenges,” Schalow wrote in the statement. “We respect our employees’ rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act and are committed to ensuring a fair, just, and humane work environment that provides opportunities to all.”

The complaint alleges the company broke the law by essentially blacklisting the Augusta workers by preventing them from applying for vacancies at other Chipotles in Maine, including one in Auburn.

The complaint calls for the Augusta restaurant at 1 Stephen King Drive to be restored “as it existed prior to July 2022 and make the former restaurant employees whole, including but not limited to, by reimbursement for consequential harm they incurred as a result” of the company’s “unlawful conduct.”

That includes offering the former employees their jobs back at the reopened restaurant, paying them back pay, compelling the company to bargain with the unionized workers and posting a notice that its actions broke the law.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, had previously called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate why the national restaurant chain closed its Augusta outlet weeks after workers filed their intent to unionize.

Jeffrey Neil Young, a lawyer with Solidarity Law, which represents the union, called the issuance of the complaint “a complete victory for the union.”


“The NLRB has many arrows in its quiver to attempt to remedy violations of the labor law,” Young wrote in a statement. “On extraordinary occasions, it has sought remedies like this to prevent employers from frustrating employees’ rights to organize a union. The relief sought by the Region here is appropriate and necessary to respond to Chipotle’s illegal union-busting.

“Chipotle closed its Augusta store, then blackballed its employees to send a message not just to employees here in Maine but across the country that their jobs were in jeopardy if they tried to exercise their legal rights to form a union.”

The NLRB says in its complaint that Chipotle must file an answer to the complaint by Thursday, Nov. 17.

A hearing on the case is expected to take place sometime next year, but injunctive relief sought by the workers would be sought much sooner, according to Young.

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