Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) has officially endorsed the Burgerville Workers Union, a new union that launched April 26 among workers at Burgerville. NOLC is the local council of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions. At its May 23 meeting, delegates passed a support resolution submitted by American Postal Workers Union Local 128 delegate Daniel Cortez. In it, the Labor Council pledges to support their struggle, and it encourages affiliated unions and their members to do so too.
Burgerville is a regional fast food chain with about 40 stores in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Most Burgerville workers earn at or near the minimum wage. The Burgerville Workers Union — affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World — is calling for a $5 an hour raise; quality, affordable health care; paid parental leave; and childcare and transportation stipends. The union hasn’t requested government certification, but no law prevents the company from meeting with the union if it chooses to. So far, that hasn’t happened.
The union has turned to the community for support. On May 23, a delegation of students from Portland State University, Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, and Cleveland High School visited Burgerville corporate headquarters to deliver signatures of support for the union effort from over 500 students and faculty.
And on May 26, a group of Burgerville workers approached Burgerville CEO Jeff Harvey at VANTalks, a Vancouver TED Talks-style event. Harvey had just finished speaking about Burgerville’s mission of stewarding good food and serving it “with love” when workers asked if he’d meet with them. Harvey said he couldn’t meet with them as a group, but would be willing to meet singly. Union supporter Jordan Vaandering says the union will select a point person to take Harvey up on that.
Meanwhile, union supporters await final resolution of a discipline case. Ivy Fleak, an outspokenly pro-union worker at the Vancouver Plaza Burgerville, was suspended for what supporters say were trumped-up violations. In a charge filed May 23 with the National Labor Relations Board, the union says the discipline was illegal retaliation.
5/31/16 UPDATE: Burgerville didn’t immediately confirm Harvey’s agreement to meet with a pro-union worker, but on May 30, Burgerville’s PR and Media Relations Counsel Sara Perrin emailed the following statement from Jack Graves, Burgerville’s Chief Cultural Officer: “Burgerville reiterates its respect for employees’ right to support or not support representation by a union. Burgerville’s policy has always been, and continues to be, that an employee may express individual viewpoints to appropriate personnel at Burgerville. Unless and until a labor organization establishes its majority status through an NLRB-supervised election, Burgerville does not believe it is appropriate to meet for the purpose of collective bargaining with any employee or group of employees purporting to represent all or any of Burgerville’s employees.”