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As Restaurants Shutter in Wake of Coronavirus Pandemic, Portland’s Most Iconic Doughnut Shop Is Unionizing

Workers at Voodoo Doughnuts are demanding physical security for remaining workers and severance for laid-off employees

Members of the Voodoo Doughnut Workers Union
Voodoo Doughnut Workers Union/Official

Known for its pink boxes, long lines of tourists and locals alike, and arguments about whether it’s overhyped or not, Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut has served its wacky doughnut flavors to the late-night downtown crowd for nearly 20 years. Now, in the face of industry calamity due to the coronavirus pandemic, its workers have announced the formation of the Voodoo Doughnut Workers Union.

The union demands, first reported by the Portland Mercury, include severance and wages from accrued paid time off for employees laid-off due to the coronavirus, as well as increased protection for workers at the downtown store. Samantha Bryce, an employee of Voodoo’s downtown location and a union representative, says that the union had been in talks since last June, but that the crisis with COVID-19 and the multiple lay offs at Voodoo Doughnut rushed the timeline; representatives from the union spoke with management today at noon, declaring its formation.

One of the primary grievances that the union is bringing forth is the company’s refusal to pay wages from accrued paid time off for the 20-odd employees that were laid off at the downtown store in the face of COVID-19 panic and a prohibition on crowds. Bryce also says that workers who were sent home early or kept home by health concerns were being denied PTO, and that management said the company could not financially afford to pay those hours. This isn’t the only employee action this week as workers around Portland face staggering losses — former employees of Crush Bar staged a sit-in to protest a similar lack of payment from accrued paid time off.

In addition to protecting those that have lost their jobs, the employees still working at the remaining Portland Voodoo shop are looking to protect themselves. The union has demanded increased protection in the form of a security guard, as just a few weeks ago, a man with a hatchet robbed the downtown store; Bryce said there have been many other, less publicized, attacks against employees at the shop.

At the moment, the union is looking for recognition at only the downtown shop, which is currently open for take-out only. The union, part of the Portland branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), has not held an election yet, but the majority of the employees have signed authorization cards.

Eater has reached out to the company to comment, but so far Voodoo has not responded.

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