By DON McINTOSH
Doughnut Workers United appears to have fallen short in its effort to unionize Blue Star Donuts’ Portland-area locations. In mail ballots tallied Jan. 18, the vote was 8 for the union and 13 against, with 7 other ballots uncounted because they were challenged by Blue Star management. Most of the 52 eligible workers didn’t vote.
Portland Jobs with Justice organizer Mark Medina, who’s been helping workers in their campaign, says a majority of Blue Star Donuts workers had signed union cards when the election was requested. The union could still eke out a one-vote win if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agrees to count six of the challenged ballots. The mail election wrapped up when Portland was covered in snow and ice. Four ballots were challenged because workers were late delivering their ballots in person to the agency’s downtown Portland office, though ballots had not yet been counted. Two other ballots were cast by workers who quit, but Medina said those ballots should be counted anyway because the workers were intimidated into quitting.
Blue Star Donuts has six locations in the Portland area and one in Los Angeles. Its donuts are also sold at local retailers like New Seasons and Market of Choice.
Union support was reportedly strongest among the wholesale bakers in the company’s flagship downtown Portland location at 1701 SW Jefferson; all six of those workers were notified two days after Christmas that they were being “furloughed” indefinitely — not laid off, but not given any hours either. A month later, none have been called back to work. An online fundraiser to support the furloughed workers had raised $1,099 as of press time.
Doughnut Workers United is a grassroots union that won its first union election at Voodoo Doughnut in September 2022, on a second attempt. Voodoo workers still don’t have a first union contract. In August 2023, the union announced a campaign at Doe Donuts, a vegan donut shop at 4110 NE Sandy Blvd. That shop’s owner voluntarily recognized the union, and Medina said working conditions have improved there since then.