Voodoo Doughnut workers relaunch union effort

By COLIN STAUB

A year after a first union election ended in a tie (and thus loss for the union), Doughnut Workers United has begun a second attempt to organize downtown Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut store.

An Aug. 1 petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeks an election covering 45 full-time and part-time “doughnuteers” and shift leads at the 22 SW 3rd Ave. location.

In a release announcing the campaign, workers say they want fair and consistent scheduling, wage increases and safety improvements.

Workers first announced a union effort in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put their campaign off for a year. In March 2021, Doughnut Workers United, which is affiliated with the Portland chapter of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), filed for an election. But when ballots were counted in June 2021, it ended in a 9-9 tie and the union wasn’t certified.

Doughnut Workers United spokesperson Mark Medina told the Labor Press multiple factors are different a year out from the first election. For one, workers have had time to gauge the company’s progress on making changes without a union. Medina said management adjusted heat-related safety protocols after last summer’s extreme heat drove workers to walk out in protest. But those protocols could change at any time unless they’re written into a union contract, he added. (Voodoo Doughnut fired nine workers who participated in the walkout, but the NLRB later found most of those were illegal terminations and ordered the company to reinstate the workers with back pay.)

Inflation at 9.1% is also a new factor, reinforcing the importance of wage increases. And amid a surge in labor organizing around the country, workers have less fear going into this campaign, Medina said.

The NLRB has not yet set an election date. Voodoo Doughnut has retained management-side law firm Perkins Cole as its legal representative.                               

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