There’s another conflict brewing between Burgerville employees and its head honchos, the Oregonian reports. The Pacific Northwestern burger chain is currently negotiating a union contract with the Burgerville Workers Union, the first federally-recognized fast-food union in the United States. Now, tensions are rising after a number of employees were told to leave work after wearing politically charged buttons during a shift, and the BVWU is pushing for freedom of button-speech in its union bargaining. The Oregonian’s Shane Dixon Kavanaugh describes the events below:
Ten Burgerville workers at the Northeast Glisan Street and 82nd Avenue location were sent home for the day late last month after they refused to remove buttons on their uniforms proclaiming “Abolish ICE” and “No One Is Illegal,” a decision the company said violated a newly minted policy.
Yet one day later, Burgerville decided to place the rule on hold. The employees received back pay and returned to work, where they’ve continued to promote causes that have left the company -- and, it says, some customers -- uneasy.
The NE Glisan Street and 82nd Burgerville location has no representatives at the bargaining table, though employees are involved with the union. The BVWU has been posting on Facebook in solidarity with the Montavilla Burgerville employees, celebrating when the company decided to repay its protesting employees and lift the button ban. “Let’s be crystal clear: the only reason they changed this policy is because of the actions of our coworkers. When workers at Montavilla chose to not take off their ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘No One Is Illegal’ and ‘Abolish ICE’ buttons - knowing they would be forced to go home - they used their collective power to denounce white supremacy and shut down the drive thru and dining hall, pushing Corporate to change their policy,” the recent post reads. “While this is a huge victory, Corporate is not off the hook.”
The button issue remains a hot topic among the corporate side of Burgerville. Liz Graham, director of human resources, told the Oregonian that “guests provided feedback that they didn’t want to see personal and political messages while they ate,” and that other employees were saying “the content of the buttons was drawing unwanted attention that made them uncomfortable.” The company told the O it’s only temporarily keeping the button-free policy at bay while the team figures out “a better way to roll it out.” For now, employees are still wearing the buttons as union bargaining continues.
• Burgerville [Official]
• The Burgerville Worker’s Union [Official]
• BVWU [Facebook]
• Portland Burgerville workers serve ‘Abolish ICE’ message, much to company’s discomfort [The O]
• Burgerville Workers Just Became the First Officially Recognized Fast-Food Union [EPDX]