Last month, workers at a Chipotle restaurant in Lansing formed the first union at the Mexican-inspired fast food chain in the United States.
The news is part of a wave of labor victories at companies like Starbucks and Amazon, and Chipotle is one of the nation’s largest fast-food chains. Like many of those victories, Lansing Chipotle’s labor organizing effort was led by the younger generation, who are fed up with the low wages and erratic hours endemic to working in the restaurant industry.
However, as young workers told the trade union publication Working notesthe real “radicalization” moment came from a Marie Antoinette-style “let them eat cake” moment.
According Working notesworkers felt scorned during a kind of dog-and-pony contest as part of the promotion from the store’s general manager to “restaurateur” status, a special title used within the company that comes with a six-figure salary.
Apparently management reduced the hours before a company inspection, resulting in the store being overstaffed that day in order to make an impression with the company’s drones. A false schedule would have even been created so that everything seems normal.
But things got out of hand when management took the workers out for a photo op with a cake and balloons with the letter “R” on them (for “restaurateur”).
“The really drastic thing that happened that day… was they took all the crew out and took a picture in front of a huge cake with balloons with ‘R’ on it,” said Atulya Dora-Laskey, member of the organizing committee. Working notes. “Then the managers all ate the cake and the crew members were sent aft.”
Apparently, while cleaning, one of the crew remarked, “I thought ‘R’ was going to be for ‘increase’.”
“It really fired people up,” Dora-Laskey told the publication. “So after that, we started looking more into union business.”
A warning to corporate lords: you’re going to have to give your workers more than a cakewalk if you want to prevent a workers’ rights uprising.
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