Chipotle Near Penn State Closes After Workers Quit

Chipotle Co-CEO Steve Ells
Chipotle Co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells has said that the starting wage at the restaurant is $8.50 to $9.50 an hour, compared with the national minimum wage of $7.25. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

A Chipotle restaurant near Pennsylvania State University temporarily closed after workers quit, citing “borderline sweatshop conditions.”

A sign in front of the restaurant, which was posted on Twitter, blamed the walkout on Chipotle’s pursuit of profit over people. While the sign said almost all of the management and crew resigned, the Denver-based company said that it was a minority of the staff.

“Our Penn State restaurant was closed when a few employees quit, locking out a majority of others who are enthusiastic to return to work,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., said in an e-mail. The store reopened this afternoon, he said.

Fast-food chains in the U.S. have been facing pressure to raise wages and offer better benefits amid nationwide strikes and protests. Chipotle Co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells has said that the starting wage at the restaurant is $8.50 to $9.50 an hour, compared with the national minimum wage of $7.25.

The restaurant company has been criticized for paying its co-CEOs a combined $49.5 million last year. In a referendum at Chipotle’s annual meeting in may, 77 percent of votes opposed the current compensation terms.

Chipotle fired hundreds of employees after an immigration probe into its workforce began in 2010 in Minnesota. In 2012, the company said federal prosecutors were investigating possible criminal securities-law violations and that regulators subpoenaed the company regarding work authorizations.

Chipotle shares rose 0.2 percent to $671.36 at the close in New York. The company, which has about 1,680 restaurants, has gained 26 percent this year, outpacing the 8 percent gain of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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