NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Workers at a Chipotle in Upper Manhattan are trying to form a union to fight the fast food chain over a rat infestation.
Employees at the popular Mexican food chain located on Broadway near 169th Street in Washington Heights said they were put in charge of dealing with the rats as the store continued to operate.
Luis Ruiz is one of four workers, including the general manager, bitten by the rodents at the location. He said the company sent workers to clean the store instead of calling an exterminator, adding that when he moved boxes he was in fear of rats running out.
The rats apparently had a taste for avocados.
Workers claim they’ve killed dozens of rats, which in addition to biting employees also nibbled through the wires on the restaurants computers.
With the help of Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, the workers are hoping to unionize.
In addition to the rat problem, the union said workers are also concerned about the coronavirus.
“Chipotle has shown a callous disregard for worker safety,” said 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg. “No one should have to go to work not knowing whether they’ll be bitten by a rat or exposed to COVID because of Chipotle’s failure to protect workers. These essential workers deserve better. That’s why Chipotle workers are organizing for a union with 32BJ SEIU.”
The store down the street from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital shut down on Nov. 23 due to the pest problem in the area, but workers say they’ve still had to come in to clean the restaurant.
The location had an A rating from the health department, though a rodent complaint was lodged on Nov. 30.
A spokesperson for the company said the health and safety of employees and guests is their top priority, adding the store is being deep cleaned and won’t reopen until the landlord makes the necessary improvements to stop the rats from coming in.
The infestation was first reported by the New York Post.