SEIU: 8 Activists Arrested During Sit-In at Downtown Minneapolis Chipotle Store
Hundreds Staged Sit-In at Minneapolis Chipotle Store, Call on Company to Treat Workers with "Integrity", Urge Company to Pay Back Wages, Stand Up Publicly for Immigration Reform
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEIU.org - [Thursday], in protest of Chipotle's mistreatment of immigrant workers, 8 protesters were arrested in an act of civil disobedience at a Chipotle store in downtown Minneapolis. The protesters were joined by fired Chipotle workers and their allies who staged a sit-in urging Chipotle to treat their workers with the same "integrity" as they treat thei ingredients in their food. The action in Minneapolis - which was supported by solidarity events at stores in CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, IL, NY and VA - comes in the wake of Chipotle abruptly firing nearly 700 Latino immigrant workers in Minnesota, without notice and in some cases without paying back wages.
"We are here today with a simple message for Chipotle: You cannot sell Mexican food and then sell out Mexican workers," said Grant Stevensen, Pastor of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in St. Paul. "After years of service, Chipotle has failed to treat these workers with any sense of integrity - in most cases even breaking Minnesota employment statutes by failing to pay back wages."
During the action at a Chipotle store in downtown Minneapolis, activists carried signs with the photos of recently fired workers bearing the slogans: "Chipocrisy: Selling Mexican Culture and then Selling Out Mexican Workers," and "Chipotle Treats their Chickens and Produce Better than they Treat their Employees".
"I worked at Chipotle for over nine years and always treated my job as if I owned the restaurant, wanting to do my best for my managers and for my customers," explained Juanita Cruz, a Chipotle employee fired in December. "But getting fired so abruptly was a disrespect to my nine years of service.
The layoffs at Chipotle followed a statewide I9 audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) - however, rather than giving workers the standard 90 days to clear up any problems with their documents, Chipotle fired them on the spot.
"It's unacceptable for a company like Chipotle, that brands itself with the slogan, 'food with integrity,' to treat its workforce with such indignity," said Greg Nammacher, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU Local 26 in Minneapolis. "We are here to remind Chipotle, and every other company that reaps enormous profits from an immigrant workforce, that they are on watch. Immigrant families and their allies will not stand by while corporations continue to exploit to benefit from a broken immigration system."
In recent weeks, fired workers have held a series of actions and meetings with Chipotle to call on the company to: 1.) Pay in full any and all back wages due to employees; 2.) Take a public stance supporting Comprehensive Immigration Reform; and, 3.) Commit to discontinue working with suppliers who support anti-immigrant candidates.
In December, right before Christmas, Chipotle abruptly fired more than 150 Latino immigrant workers at multiple stores in Minneapolis, MN without paying back wages. Since then, hundreds more have also lost their jobs in Minnesota. In support of the sit-in at the downtown Minneapolis Chipotle today, activists held actions outside of Chipotle stores in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New Haven, New York, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington.
Beyond the abrupt nature of the dismissals, there is reason to believe that Chipotle violated the following Minnesota state employment laws:
· Minnesota Statute 181.961: Requires employers to provide fired employees with their personnel file within seven (7) working days.
· Minnesota Statute 181.933: Requires employers to provide employees with an explanation of why they were fired within ten (10) working days.
· Minnesota Statute 181.13: Requires employers to provide employees with their final paycheck within twenty-four (24) hours of being fired.