Chipotle workers flooded New York’s Midtown yesterday, picket panels in the hand. By gothamist, workers were mobilizing for higher wages and better working hours, the culmination of a four-day strike against the alleged unsavory treatment of workers by their employer. The next step for workers? Unionization, says the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Although Chipotle workers have yet to file a petition for a formal election, a spokesperson for 32BJ SEIU has high hopes that official organizing efforts are close. This comes as a number of Starbucks locations officially organize with SEIU and other fast food unionization efforts are underway. reach a boiling point. The energy is exciting, but unionized fast food workers still have a long way to go as they fight for better working conditions. Here’s how you can help.
Learn about the benefits of unions
Unions are a hot political issue, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there (most from disgruntled employers). If you’re excited about organizing efforts but don’t know how to support, start with explore the benefits of unions. Believe me, a fiery union co-chair from my workplace: unions are a major source of protection and dignity for American workers. They provide workers with a collective voice, enabling them to advocate for greater job security, better pay and safer working conditions. Once you have a good understanding of these benefits, you can move forward with confidence in expressing your solidarity for organization of workers.
Eat in or sip
When you hear about a misbehaving fast food employer, your first instinct might be to boycott their chains, but showing up to organize workers at those chains can go a long way in boosting morale. Earlier this week, workers at two Starbucks locations in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood officially voted to join SEIU. Before the vote, local union supporters met at one of the places for a “to sip” to express their enthusiasm for the efforts. Group actions like this are a great way to support employees who are unionizing, letting workers know that the community is behind them. Throwing a little extra cabbage into the tip jar doesn’t hurt either.
Show up for demos
If you’re comfortable gathering in groups, consider spending time at a pro-union protest, like yesterday’s Chipotle action. “Right now we have a lot of activity in New York, especially related to scheduling issues and workers not working enough hours, although this effort is open to Chipotle workers everywhere,” said SEIU spokesman Rush Perez. Perez explains that in 2021, New York City Chipotle sued, asking for $150 million in relief for 600,000 alleged violations of the city’s Fair Work Week law. “Despite a major administrative complaint from the city, many workers are still reporting violations, including illegally cutting their hours and failing to offer open hours to current employees before hiring new workers,” said Perez.
With all of that in mind, public protests need all the bodies they can get. Even if you are not tied to the organizing effort, join the picket line is a great way to show your support. You can also support field workers by bringing snacks or cold drinks.
Show some love online
Sip-ins and picket lines are fabulous, but you can also support organizing efforts remotely. First, many unions use digital petitions to garner public support. You don’t have to be a fast-food worker or union member to sign them; they are simply a way for the union to show its employer that the community supports union activity. (Chipotle workers currently have a petition on the SEIU website.)
Organizing groups also tend to be active on social media. Give Accounts a follow and amplify their messages on your own platforms. Not only will this help garner more petition signatures; it can also generate a sense of digital solidarity when the going gets tough. Maybe you have a friend on Facebook who wants to organize their workplace. Maybe a few of your Instagram followers want more information about unions, but are embarrassed to ask. The more pro-union activities you share, the more you can help normalize the idea of worker solidarity in your community.