A vocal leader of the campaign to unionize the Burgerville fast food chain has been suspended without pay since Jan. 6 — ostensibly for failing to pay 70 cents for a bagel and cream cheese.
Jordan Vaandering, who’s worked for 14 months at the Burgerville store in Vancouver Plaza, thinks the bagel is a pretext, and that his union activity is the real reason for his suspension. Vaandering, who’s incidentally the nephew of Oregon teachers union president Hanna Vaandering, has been active recruiting coworkers to join the Burgerville Workers Union, an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The union is calling for affordable employer-provided healthcare and a $5.00 raise for all hourly Burgerville workers, among other demands. Their campaign has been endorsed by the Oregon AFL-CIO and half a dozen other labor organizations.
Vaandering says an assistant manager gave him the bagel during a paid break on Jan. 5, and didn’t ask him to pay for it. Several hours after Vaandering opened the restaurant the next day, he was confronted by the store’s general manager about the “bagel incident” — the manager said he’d been informed by human resources that Vaandering had taken a bagel without paying for it. Vaandering offered to pay, but was refused and sent home five hours before the end of his shift.
That same day, Vaandering filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. It’s against the National Labor Relations Act for an employer to discipline a worker for taking part in union activity.
On June 7, the union organized supporters to call the company, and on Jan. 9, Vaandering, two coworkers, and two IWW members visited company HQ to present a bagel and $0.70 to a company executive, along with a request that he be returned to work.
The next day, Vaandering was called into a meeting with the store general manager and human resource consultant Lacey Halpern, told he wasn’t allowed to take notes or have a witness, and asked for his side of the story. Vaandering says they told him they’d let him know their decision by Jan. 11. He’s still waiting for the call.
[UPDATE: Vaandering got the call on Jan. 18: He’s been terminated. The union is organizing a protest Jan. 25. Details here.]