By Don McIntosh
Accompanied by Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain and other union and community supporters, a delegation of about a dozen Burgerville workers paid a visit the company’s Vancouver, Washington, headquarters March 26 to deliver a message: Burgerville Workers Union has majority support at Burgerville’s Southeast 92nd Avenue and Powell location, and if the regional fast food chain doesn’t voluntarily recognize the group within two days, the union will ask for a government-administered union election at that site.
But when they arrived on foot at the headquarters building just after 1 p.m., the delegation found doors locked, desks near the windows unoccupied, and no one to come to the door at first. After talking through a locked glass door to someone who appeared in the lobby, they taped their demand letter to the front door and departed.
Burgerville is a privately-owned regional fast food chain with 42 stores. It promotes itself as local and sustainable, but pays workers at or near minimum wage. Burgerville Workers Union is calling for a $5 an hour wage increase.
Union activists believe they have majority support at the 92nd and Powell location. This will be their first call for an official union election since they publicly launched the union campaign in April 2016.
But the union’s supporters emphasize that their union exists as an organization of workers, regardless of whether it has the support of a majority. They’re asking for a vote because demonstrating majority support in an election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would obligate the company legally to negotiate with the union.
“We already function as a union,” says Mark Medina, a union supporter at 92nd and Powell. “This is just to make the company sit down with us.”
Since Feb. 2, Burgerville Workers Union has been calling on the public to boycott the company until it comes to terms with the union. The boycott has so far been endorsed by 19 unions as well as by other organizations and individuals.