by COLIN STAUB
At the French bistro Alouette PDX, under-staffing and a lack of management support proved to be the perfect recipe for restaurant workers to launch a union drive and go on strike, just six weeks after it opened at 2764 NW Thurman St.
“We’ve been plucked for far too long and now it’s time we get our feathers back!” workers declared on the newly formed Instagram account Alouette_United. According to posts on the account, workers tried to communicate grievances to store management, then walked off the job July 16.
Signed by eight workers, a letter posted to the account says they were led to unionize by pay discrepancies between workers doing the same job, confusing overtime practices, lack of clear job descriptions, absentee ownership, inconsistent workplace rules, and unsafe working temperatures.
Workers and the owner each laid out their perspectives in a July 20 article on the restaurant news website pdx.eater.com. Workers told Eater the restaurant is understaffed and lacks air conditioning, and complained that the person they understood to be the main chef rarely shows up to the kitchen. Restaurant owner Wei-En Tan told Eater that the “main chef” was actually just helping with the business launch, rather than staying on in a permanent role. She said no communication was attempted before the union organizing effort, and suggested the union campaign was being used as a weapon against the business.
According to Eater, the restaurant closed shortly after the strike began, ostensibly for repairs to remedy water and structural damage that are slated to take multiple weeks. Owners told Eater the repair plans predate the union effort.
At press time, the union had not yet filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).