The button-adorned employees of fast food chain Burgerville will soon have to leave the protest flair at home: A statement released by human resources director Liz Graham says staff will be prohibited from wearing all buttons starting September 13. The statement comes after a conflict with the 10 employees at the Burgerville on Northeast Glisan Street and 82nd Avenue, who were sent home for wearing buttons with messages like ‘Abolish ICE,’ ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and ‘No One Is Illegal.’ Here’s the full statement from Graham and Burgerville:
Some of our employees have been wearing buttons expressing their political views at work. While Burgerville had a long-standing verbal policy prohibiting the wearing of personal buttons, we did not have a written policy about this. The company is adopting one that represents our long-standing commitment to creating a universally welcoming and inclusive environment for our customers and employees alike. We are instituting an updated uniform policy, and buttons and other messaging – both political and personal – will not be allowed. It is a policy that is common in public-facing businesses and is in alignment with our mission to Serve With Love. It will become effective Thursday, September 13, 2018. We respect our employees’ right to express their own opinions and we encourage them to stay active and engaged in forums outside the workplace.
According to an Oregonian story, the company decided to clarify that buttons were not permitted on August 22; the employees who refused to remove the buttons were sent home. The policy was put on hold, and employees were given backpay and returned to work; however, the company did say it would bring back the button policy. The Burgerville Workers Union, which is currently negotiating a union contract, included the approved use of buttons as one of their proposals.
The Burgerville Workers Union responded with their own statement, claiming Burgerville’s corporate office went public with the ban after agreeing to work “in tandem with the union” on a compromise version of the button policy. Read the full statement below:
Yesterday, on September 6th, the union learned that Burgerville corporate plans to reinstate its bans on buttons expressing, among other things, support for Black Lives Matter and the abolition of ICE. This is deeply unsettling, as it comes after Burgerville’s representatives committed at the most recent bargaining session to working on any future button policy in tandem with the union. The union is actively considering legal options in this regard.
We wear buttons that say Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE because police brutality, racist deportations, white supremacy, and fascism do not cease to exist when we clock on at work. White supremacy is a workplace issue. Deportations are a workplace issue. These issues are also not just “personal”. Everything we believe and everything we do - at work and outside of work - affects the people around us. We must choose sides.
The aftermath of the recent press coverage surrounding workers at the Montavilla Burgerville refusing to comply with the first button ban only proves these points. A Fox News story about our union generated outrage in the far right, attracting the attention of white supremacists and actual fascists, who spewed everything from racist hatred to threats of violence on social media. Despite their commitment to working on future button policies with the union, within twenty-four hours of the swell of right wing outrage, Burgerville corporate capitulated to the demands of internet racists.
Defending their ban on “personal” and “political” buttons, Burgerville claims the policy creates a “universally welcoming and inclusive environment.” Not only is this impossible - as there is no neutrality when it comes to white supremacy - it is, quite frankly, disgusting. No environment that welcomes white supremacist customers can also welcome workers or customers of color. When it came time to choose sides, Burgerville corporate sided with those who deny that Black Lives Matter and who support racism in all its many forms. Their progressive reputation is nothing more than a flashy ad campaign.
Burgerville’s motto is “serve with love.” The union asks who do they serve -- white supremacists or its anti-racist workers?
Update, September 7, 2018, 10:11 a.m.
This story has been updated to include the statement from the Burgerville Workers Union.
• Burgerville [Official]
• The Burgerville Workers Union [Official]
• Burgerville Employees Were Sent Home for Wearing ‘Abolish ICE’ Buttons [EPDX]
• Portland Burgerville workers serve ‘Abolish ICE’ message, much to company’s discomfort [The O]