The company also said it plans to hire 20,000 new workers and open 200 new locations this year.
The company joins the ranks of many others offering incentives and higher pay to lure workers back into the workforce after the pandemic year, including Costco, Target and Walmart, among others.
Many businesses, particularly those offering lower-wage, hourly positions, like restaurants, have complained that they are having trouble finding workers — even amid high levels of unemployment — which has raised concerns that a worker shortage could hamper the economic recovery.
Job growth in April came in well below expectations, with only 266,000 jobs added as the country seeks to regain the more than 8 million more jobs it had in February 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the wage increases found in the survey reflected the increased demand for labor.
Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC on Monday that the current labor market was among the tightest he’d ever seen in his career, saying the company was hoping to highlight the appeal of the brand and the employee growth potential. Workers are also being offered a $200 referral bonus for employees and a $750 referral bonus for managers.
“We are sharing with people that it’s not just a job right now, but it’s actually a job that can lead to a meaningful career,” Niccol told the outlet. “I’m glad that we’re a company that’s got the growth, and frankly the strength, to increase wages and start talking more about how the job leads to your future growth with our company.”
In Washington, lawmakers have seized on the matter for political purposes, with Republicans complaining that the labor supply issues are the direct result of overgenerous stimulus measures passed by Democrats earlier this year.
But labor economists, worker advocates and some business groups say the issue is far more complicated, with many workers forced to juggle child care with many schools yet to fully reopen, lingering questions about workplace safety for vaccine-avoiders and others with complicated health considerations, and many workers having moved on or rethinking career plans.
The debate has also resurfaced the larger national discussion about living wages for poorly paid workers.
President Biden pushed to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour — $15,080 a year, before taxes — to $15 an hour, after a more than 10-year gap raising the minimum wage, but the idea was shelved because of procedural rules in the Senate. Many of the companies complaining about worker shortages pay below this threshold, usually at levels below what advocates consider “a living wage” — the amount it takes to live and raise a family in many areas of the country.
Some economists say businesses hiring for lower-wage positions also face increased competition from companies such as Target and Amazon, which have voluntarily increased starting pay to $15 an hour, amid plans to expand.
“Chipotle is committed to providing industry-leading benefits and accelerated growth opportunities, and we hope to attract even more talent by showcasing the potential income that can be achieved in a few short years,” Marissa Andrada, a company executive, said in a statement Monday. “We’re looking for people who are authentic, passionate and want to help cultivate a better world through real food and real personal development.”
Chipotle faces pressure on other fronts, too, as the company’s labor practices have come under legal scrutiny in recent years.
During the earliest days of the pandemic last March, workers in at least four stores in New York City walked out over complaints about being forced to work sick, according to the labor union that has been working to organize them, the Service Employees International Union.
Officials there also sued the company last week for $150 million, alleging about two years’ worth of violations under the city’s 2017 Fair Workweek Law, which added restrictions for companies for things like changing employee schedules without sufficient notice, and working consecutive overnight-reopening shifts. Chipotle called the lawsuit "dramatic overreach” and said it plans to contest the suit.
In Massachusetts last year, the company was ordered to pay $1.4 million in fines over claims that it racked up more than 13,000 child labor law violations.
CFO Jack Hartung told investors earlier this year that raising its salary average to $15 an hour would cause menu prices to spike at least 2 to 3 percent. The company told The Post that it would make only a “modest price increase” to its menu now to offset the labor costs and reevaluate the issue in the fall.