Chipotle claims its motto “food with integrity” applies throughout its supply chain. But workers who make burrito bowls at a plant outside Los Angeles say the company has turned a blind eye to their fight for respect and a voice on the job.
The workers have been organizing with the United Steelworkers for over a year, seeking fairness, better wages and safer working conditions at a plant owned by Finland-based packaging conglomerate Huhtamaki in Commerce, Calif.
Huhtamaki operates several unionized plants in the U.S. and abroad, but it’s waging a relentless anti-union campaign in Commerce, workers say. Charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board accuse the company of retaliating against pro-union workers.
Twin Cities activists will stand in solidarity with Huhtamaki’s workers during a demonstration Saturday, Aug. 22, at Chipotle’s Cultivate Festival in Minneapolis. Supporters will meet at 1 p.m. Click here to view the event page on Facebook.
The demonstration, Los Angeles-based organizer Graham Fortier told delegates to the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation earlier this week, will keep the pressure on Chipotle to “talk to Huhtamaki as their supplier, and make them respect their own code of conduct.”
“Chipotle puts a high price on social responsibility,” Fortier added. “Recently, the company cut a contract with its pork supplier because they were abusing pigs. What we’re asking is that they also look into the people who are actually making their product.”
Huhtamaki workers have repeatedly sought meetings with management to address substandard working conditions at the Commerce plant, including oppressive heat and arbitrary discipline. Management refused their request – and doubled down on a union-avoidance campaign.
According to the Steelworkers, Huhtamaki spent $500,000 on legal fees for a union-busting law firm last year, spied on workers, forced them to sit through anti-union meetings and mailed anti-union propaganda to their homes.
“We had one woman who fainted from heat exhaustion and the company sent her home, then disciplined her for missing part of her shift,” Fortier said. “That’s the kind of attitude they have toward their workers.”