A Burgerville store goes union — officially

Burgerville workers at the 92nd and Powell store celebrate what may be the nation’s first successful fast food union vote.

PORTLAND — Workers at the Burgerville restaurant at SE 92nd and Powell Boulevard already knew they were union. Now a federal agency has verified it.

In ballots counted April 23 by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the workers demonstrated their choice to join Burgerville Workers Union in a 18-to-4 vote. That means Burgerville is now legally obligated to recognize the union and bargain in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment — for the 30 employees of that store.

“Our employees have spoken, we hear them, and we support their decision,” said Beth Brewer, Burgerville’s senior vice president of operations — in a video statement. “With the same pioneering spirit that Burgerville is known for, we are ready to support the nation’s first fast food union.”

Burgerville, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, is a privately held regional fast food chain with 1,500 employees at 42 locations in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Burgerville Workers Union, affiliated with the Portland branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, launched in April 2016, and has been calling for a $5 an hour raise, affordable health benefits, and free childcare. Burgerville Workers Union says it has an active presence at five other locations besides the Southeast 92nd and Powell store: Convention Center, Hawthorne, Southeast 26th and Powell, Portland Airport, and Gladstone. Workers at the Gladstone store at 19119 SE McLoughlin Blvd filed a petition for a NLRB election on April 18. No election date has been set yet.

Burgerville Workers Union said in a press statement that its company-wide boycott will remain in effect until a fair contract is negotiated. The boycott was announced Feb. 2 during a several day strike at four Burgerville locations, and has been endorsed by 18 unions and by Oregon’s Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek, among others.

“The struggle of the Burgerville workers is an inspiration to not just unions, but to all working people,” said Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain in a press statement offering congratulations on the vote. “Workers in Oregon and across the country are watching as this historic campaign moves forward, and Oregon’s union movement stands ready to support Burgerville’s workers however we can.”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: What the union and the company had to say about the vote result 

Burgerville Workers Union statement

Burgerville Workers Vote Union: BVWU Only Recognized Fast Food Union in Nation

PORTLAND, OR: Tonight, on April 23, workers at the 92nd and Powell Burgerville overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU). As a result of the election, the BVWU is now the only fast food union in the country with federal recognition. The union expects to begin contract negotiations with the company soon.

“Burgerville leaves a lot of us workers poor, hungry, and homeless,” Mark Medina, a worker at the 92nd and Powell location, said yesterday, speaking to why workers want a union. “With the company’s use of e-verify, some of us even face possible deportation.”

The final vote count was 18 for the union and 4 against, out of a bargaining unit of 25 workers. The union captured 82% of the vote.

“What happened here today is historic,” said Medina. “Burgerville workers are at the forefront of their own movement, proving to everyone that we can change our lives and our world for the better.”

Last week workers at the Gladstone Burgerville also filed for an union election, though the election date has not yet been set. Gladstone workers report experiencing particularly harsh anti-union retaliation since going public, including targeted scheduling cuts, threats of discipline for promoting the union, and even a firing of a union supporter.

“Much love and many congratulations to workers at 92nd and Powell,” said Dylan Fitzwater, a worker at the Gladstone Burgerville. “As we face down retaliation at Gladstone for organizing our own election, we know they’ll have our backs.”

Since going public two years ago on April 26th, 2016, the union has expanded to hold an active presence in six stores. Union victories include a fifty cent raise, a union benefits program, and a February strike that unfolded over three days in four different stores. The BVWU believes this to be the largest fast food strike in American history.

To commemorate both the election victory as well as its second birthday, the Burgerville Workers Union will be holding a celebratory picket this coming Thursday, April 26th, outside the 92nd and Powell location. The event will run from 5:00-7:30 PM.

The company-wide boycott, which launched in February during the union’s three-day strike, will remain in effect until the union and the company negotiate a fair contract.

Burgerville statement

Burgerville Employees Vote in Favor of Joining Union: Workers at SE 92nd & Powell location opt for IWW representation

VANCOUVER, Wash. (April 23, 2018) – Workers today voted in favor of joining a union at Burgerville’s Store #41 located at 3504 SE 92nd Ave. in Portland, Ore. The election was held by secret ballot on Sunday, April 22 and Monday, April 23 inside the restaurant and was overseen by facilitators from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Employees at the single store were able to cast a vote in favor or against joining the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Portland Chapter, d/b/a Burgerville Workers Union. The election was the first to be authorized by the NLRB after a two-year organizing drive. The IWW has previously led unsuccessful campaigns to unionize a Starbucks store in New York City, as well as a Jimmy John’s store in Minneapolis.

“Employees at Burgerville Store #41 have voted to unionize in the fair and free election overseen by the NLRB. Our employees have spoken, we hear them, and we support their decision. We will navigate this new working relationship together in a positive, productive way and bargain in good faith with the union at Burgerville Store #41,” said Beth Brewer, Senior VP of Operations for Burgerville. “We are proud of our relationship with our coworkers, and we will continue to provide a fair, positive work environment for all.”

“Burgerville has always been a leader in the fast-food industry, being the first regional chain to offer cage-free eggs, 100 percent antibiotic-free and hormone-free proteins, and off-set 100 percent of our energy use with renewable wind credits, while also supporting 989 Northwest family farms and ranches. With the same pioneering spirit that Burgerville is known for, we are ready to support the nation’s first unionized fast-food store.”

On average, current Burgerville employees are paid approximately 20 percent more than the industry standard, and they are offered healthcare starting at $35/month, with 90 percent of costs covered. Turnover is low, and the average tenure of a Burgerville employee is 29 months—26 percent longer than the industry average. Additional benefits include paid vacation and sick leave, free life insurance, educational assistance, discounted meals, and advancement opportunities. In 2017, internal candidates filled 80 percent of all open management positions.

The IWW lists a $5 raise, affordable health care and free child care among its desired provisions for Burgerville workers.

“For 57 years Burgerville has been building relationships with team members, farmers, ranchers and customers,” Brewer added. “Business and community will always change; our collective commitment is to ‘Serve with Love.’”

About Burgerville: Established in 1961, Burgerville, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, is an innovative and industry-leading restaurant company with 42 locations throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. Over 1,500 employees strong, the hometown favorite brings guests seasonal, local food from 989 Northwest family farms and ranches. Burgerville is built on a tradition based in its mission to “Serve with Love.” At Burgerville, the commitment to fresh, local and sustainable values is about helping people and communities thrive.


Burgerville Workers Union spokesperson Emmett Schlenz emerges from the 92nd and Powell store to announce a 18-to-4 union win.

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