Prolific Portland burger chain Little Big Burger is planning to hold a vote for union recognition next week, but an unlikely force is trying to stop the election — the union itself. The Little Big Union believes that the company is trying to sabotage the union’s success by scheduling an election at an inopportune time for employees, The Portland Mercury reports.
Earlier this year, the employees of Little Big Burger announced plans to unionize, requesting voluntary recognition from the company and its owner, Chanticleer Holdings. The company responded that they wouldn’t voluntarily recognize the union, but would support a “fair, secret ballot election,” in the words of Little Big Burger spokesperson Jason Assad.
Since then, tensions between the union and the company have mounted, with the union claiming the company fired and suspended multiple employees for union activity. Now, Chanticleer has filed a petition for a union election at all of the Little Big Burger locations throughout the state next week, which Adrian Oca, regional vice president of operations at Chanticleer, says was out of a desire for an efficient resolution.
Little Big Union disagrees. They believe the choice of time — 3 to 5 p.m. next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday — was meant to lower voter turnout and potentially force a loss. Many Little Big Burger employees are Portland State University students, who will be in the middle of finals next week, and the union argues that the choice of time makes it difficult for employees preparing for the dinner rush to set aside time to vote.
It’s also noteworthy that Chanticleer is going for an Oregon-wide election, as opposed to the store-to-store model; the Burgerville Workers Union has had success unionizing one store at a time, allowing the union to build a base and educate employees before they go into an election. Holding an Oregon-wide election means shops where there is no union presence will be voting at the same time as established union shops.
The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing in Portland Friday to consider the possible election next week, which the union plans to challenge. The union will suggest a different set of dates, allowing for a larger turnout. Stay tuned to see if Little Big Burger indeed votes to unionize as soon as next week.
• Little Big Burger [Official]
• Little Big Union [Facebook]
• Why is Little Big Burger’s Union Trying to Delay a Vote to Unionize? [Merc]
• Little Big Burger Fired An Employee Who Went on Strike [EPDX]
• Behind Portland’s Fight for Unionized Fast Food Restaurants [EPDX]