business news in context, analysis with attitude

•  The New York Times this morning reports that "workers who filed for a union election at a Chipotle in Augusta, Maine, are accusing the company of seeking to undermine their campaign by closing the restaurant.

"The company notified employees of the closing on Tuesday morning, hours before the two sides were scheduled to take part in a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board about the possible election."

The story notes that "the labor board will investigate the charge and issue a formal complaint if it finds merit in the accusation, at which point the case would go before an administrative law judge. The two sides could reach a settlement beforehand."

The Times quotes Laurie Schalow, the company’s chief corporate affairs officer, as saying, "We have been unable to adequately staff this remote restaurant … because of these ongoing staffing challenges, there is no probability of reopening in the foreseeable future, so we’ve made the decision to permanently close the restaurant.”

The story notes that "a handful of workers at the store walked off the job in mid-June to protest what they said were unsafe conditions that stemmed from understaffing and insufficient training," and that it was this action that precipitated the union movement.  Which strikes me as kind of ironic … the workers were complaining about understaffing, which made them think they needed union representation to help them with what they viewed as unresponsive management, and then management closes the store in part because of understaffing.  (If you believe Chipotle's management.  Which I'm not sure I do.)  You'd think that it would've been easier to deal with the issue at hand.

Now, I'm sure that the understaffing problem is real - it is an issue facing almost every retail business.  But it isn't like Chipotle is shutting down every understaffed facility.  Plus, Schalow's comment about the store being "remote" doesn't exactly ring true … this restaurant is almost midway between a Chipotle an hour away in Bangor to the east, and an hour from a Chipotle in Portland due south.  It sounds to me like Chipotle is sending a message.

•  The Washington Post reports that "workers have launched a union campaign at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, N.Y., in the latest bid to organize the anti-union tech giant.

"Labor organizers at the warehouse are seeking a vote on joining the independent Amazon Labor Union, which has faced challenges making headway into new warehouses after securing an upset victory at a warehouse on Staten Island in April.

Two workers involved in the campaign said they are moving to unionize to negotiate for higher pay, safer working conditions, longer breaks and a say in how the company tracks productivity."

Amazon has not yet commented on this specific unionization move, but the Post notes that the company "has long opposed union drives among its warehouse workforce and has repeatedly been found by the NLRB to have violated labor laws protecting workers’ rights to organize by surveilling workers’ organizing efforts, firing union organizers, confiscating union literature and threatening workers who support unions."