More than 50 employees walked out of three Burgerville stores last Friday to protest what the Burgerville Workers Union is calling bad-faith bargaining. As the Portland Mercury first reported, the walkout was in response to a lack of wage increases that the union continues to request, as well as Burgerville’s decision to cancel a bargaining meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 7.
This was the first strike since September 2018 and the first time that the Hawthorne location participated in a strike, joining the Montavilla and 92nd and Powell locations. All three stores stayed open with drive-thru service for a few hours after the morning walkout, before fully shutting down in the evening.
While the union and the company continue their contract negotiations, Burgerville has been resistant to increase wages at the rate the union requests. “If Burgerville comes to the table with a decent wage proposal that actually respects us, then great. But everything they’ve shown us so far has not suggested that,” says BVWU representative Emmett Schlenz. “It’s worth the fight, and we’re ready for it. If they don’t do it, we’re going to make them.”
Burgerville representative Hillary Barbour challenges the idea that the company is bargaining in bad faith, noting the recent addition of tipping to Burgerville stores — a union request. “In our continuing negotiations we know that we’re not meeting everyone’s expectations yet, and we’re committed to working on that. Tipping is just the first step,” she says. “We’re getting feedback from the employees, and we’ve had a lot of other ideas that we’re taking back and planning on going to work on.”
Another contested portion of the conflict comes down to when the union decided to strike. Barbour claims the company received credible word of a strike and had to cancel in order to focus on the stores that might shut down.
“When a strike is planned we do what we need to do to ensure safety and our business operations,” Barbour says. “It is absolutely the right [of workers] to strike and not to strike and we respect that, but we also want to have business operations be productive for the employees, we want to keep our customers happy, and to continue to support the Northwest farming industry and ranchers in the Pacific Northwest.”
Even so, Schlenz claims that store managers had missed bargaining meetings before with no problem. “Any day the company refuses to bargain in good faith by bringing real proposals, is a potential strike day, regardless if that’s next week, next month, or next year,” says union representative Mark Medina in a press release. In his and Schlenz’s eyes, the company shouldn’t cancel meetings during the process of union bargaining simply because of a strike.
• Burgerville [Official]
• Burgerville Workers Union [Facebook]
• Workers at Three Burgerville Locations on Strike Over Denied Wage Increases [Merc]
• Behind Portland’s Fight for Unionized Fast Food Restaurants [EPDX]