In a historic move, employees at Burgerville store #41 on 92nd and Powell voted Monday to make their branch of the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) the first officially recognized fast food workers union in the country. The vote, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, was overwhelmingly in favor, with 18 members of the bargaining unit voting yes, and four voting no.
The BVWU is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Portland chapter, though the formation and activity has been exclusively lead by Burgerville employees. In a press release, Mark Medina, a member of the freshly recognized union wrote, “What happened here [Monday] is historic...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.”
The union is eager to move forward with negotiations, as federal recognition should give it more bargaining power at the table. In response, Burgerville corporate released a statement and video, with Beth Brewer, Senior VP of Operations, saying, “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.”
While the BVWU has members in many of the Burgerville locations, only the union at store #41 is officially recognized. But that might soon change, as the Gladstone Burgerville branch recently filed to hold its own election, with workers optimistic a vote would have the same result as the Powell branch’s did. “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.” The date is not yet set for this election.
Speaking with Eater PDX, Emmett Schlenz, a Burgerville employee at the Hawthorne location, said he was thrilled for the larger repercussions of the vote. “I’m most excited for burgerville workers and other low wage workers across the country to see us winning the election. We’re employees, we’re not paid staffers, but we did this; workers can come together to build a better life and a better world. If we can do it, they can do it.”
In recognition of the victory, employees of Burgerville are holding a celebratory picket at the 92nd and Powell location this Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. And despite the result of the election, members of the union are still calling for a boycott on the fast food chain until a new contract is signed.