By MALLORY GRUBEN
Around 40 workers at the Burgerville restaurant near the Oregon Convention Center struck for two days July 28-29 after contract negotiations with company leaders stagnated.
Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) represents nearly 190 workers at five of the local chain’s 36 Portland-area restaurants. In 2021, they became America’s first fast food workers to ratify a union contract.
That contract expired May 1, and BVWU entered negotiations for a second contract shortly after. BVWU organizer Mark Medina said workers had asked to start bargaining in March, but Burgerville declined.
Medina said workers want the next contract to provide pay raises, affordable health care, and better access to union representatives while at work. The company hasn’t responded to the union’s proposals, Medina said, and instead is pushing negotiating ground rules in which the union would have to pay a portion of the bill for any rented negotiations space. BVWU proposed meeting for free in union halls or the Oregon AFL-CIO building, but the company has refused.
Burgerville declined to answer questions from the Labor Press, but emailed a statement saying they’re committed to bargaining in good faith with the union for a successor contract that ensures fair treatment, competitive pay and benefits.
Outside the restaurant at 1135 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., strikers walked out at 10 a.m. July 28. About 90 minutes into the strike, the company emailed workers that it would hold a one-day lockout on July 29 and hire replacement workers to cover their shifts, Medina said. Workers spent July 29 handing out informational fliers and turning away the replacement workers. Replacement workers told BVWU members that they were offered $22 to $30 an hour — about $5 to $13 an hour more than regular workers make under their contract.
“Each one of these was maybe a three to four minute conversation,” Medina said. “People understood the fight and didn’t want to be a scab.”
Burgerville has agreed to meet with workers and a mediator later this month, but a date has not been set.