Several dozen Chipotle workers at a handful of locations across New York City plan to rally in Midtown Thursday after striking this week for a $20 minimum wage and better scheduling practices at the national fast food chain.
“Enough is enough,” Dashea Pringel, 35, told Gothamist ahead of Thursday’s rally. She’s worked at a Chipotle in Harlem for the last two and a half years and for half that time, said her manager had ignored her requests to be made a full-time employee.
“I'm a single mother who takes care of two boys. I have a whole apartment to pay for rent,” she said. “I'm just tired of living check to check, trying to keep food in my house.”
Several workers who spoke with Gothamist described having their hours suddenly cut, and being denied full-time employment, at the same time the company was hiring scores of new workers to cover additional shifts. Striking workers are angling for $20 starting pay and predictable full-time schedules for those who want them.
They’re working with union organizers at 32BJ though they haven’t formally voted to unionize. They planned to rally and march along Sixth Avenue in Midtown Thursday afternoon to mark four days of refusing to show up to work in protest.
“They just think that we are machines,” said 24-year-old Maria Romero, another striking worker at an Upper East Side Chipotle. After more than six years on the job, she said she gets just four hours of sick time per year and eight hours of vacation time per year.
“We are not animals,” she added.
Laurie Schalow, a spokesperson for Chipotle, touted recent wage increases for staffers and managers to an average of $17.37 and $19.98 respectively in the New York City region.
“Chipotle’s engaged and hard-working employees are what makes us great, and we encourage our employees to contact us immediately, including through an anonymous 800 number, with any concerns so we can investigate and respond quickly to make things right,” she said.
New York City’s Fair Workweek Law, which went into effect in 2017, is supposed to block fast food chains from changing workers schedules within two weeks of their shifts and from suddenly reducing their hours. It also requires companies to pay workers more if they make last minute changes to their schedules. Other city and state laws require companies that earn more than a million dollars a year to pay workers for up to 40 hours of sick time a year.
But in a 2021 complaint filed by New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protections, the city alleged Chipotle had ignored the provisions of those laws nearly 600,000 times in a two-year span, and owed its estimated 6,500 New York City employees $150 million in damages. That case is in settlement talks, according to the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
Meanwhile, workers who spoke with Gothamist said nothing much had changed with the company’s policy since then.
Autumn Segarra, 19, said she was suddenly fired after calling in sick after five months on the job. The layoff has sent her reeling, as her mother and stepfather rely on her to help pay the family’s utility and phone bills. Leading up to her layoff, her manager had cut back her hours to just two days.
“They don't define us by anything else, but numbers,” she said, describing the employee code workers use to clock in and out. “If I was still working in Chipotle, I would have been on strike. I'm not fighting for myself. I'm fighting for Chipotle workers as a whole.”