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Chipotle unionizer returns to work

Brenda Garcia, a 31-year-old Chipotle worker from Queens, returned to work last week, just days after she says she was fired for speaking out on the fast food chain’s scheduling practices and speaking with her co-workers about forming a union.

The Flushing resident and single mother of one says she was fired after she called in sick, despite having three sick days to use. In response, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ filed charges under the National Labor Relations Act, accusing Chipotle of firing her for union activity.

Four days later, Garcia returned to work at 136-61 Roosevelt Avenue, with the backing of local Councilmember Sandra Ung.

“This shows that when we speak up we can make a difference,” said Garcia. “Chipotle must respect workers, give us the opportunity to grow and respect our right to organize a union. I’m ready to get my job back and to keep fighting for the shifts and a schedule that I need to survive and to support my son.”

Councilmember Ung added, “I’m delighted to be here to stand alongside Brenda as she returns to work after being unjustly terminated. I thank 32BJ for amplifying Brenda’s story, and for all it continues to do to support the fight for fair working conditions for working-class people.”

In a statement to The Queens Ledger, Chipotle says Garcia was never terminated, but rather requested two weeks off.

“Ms. Garcia was never terminated, however, on April 18, she requested two weeks off,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer. “We are pleased that she returned to work exactly two weeks later on May 2.”

Among the provisions of the city’s Fair Workweek Law is that employers must offer more hours and additional shifts to current employees before hiring new help. Last year, the city filed a lawsuit alleging that Chipotle had violated the Fair Workweek Law almost 600,000 times in a two-year span.

Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ, says the union still has a complaint filed against Chipotle alleging anti-union intimidation tactics and for creating an atmosphere of surveillance.

“We are glad in this case that Chipotle made this decision to bring Brenda back,” Bragg said. “But the charge of alleging anti-union intimidation, threats and creating an impression of surveillance remains. This is why workers need a union at Chipotle.”

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