Employees of the Montavilla Burgerville location are on strike after the restaurant announced plans to reopen following an employee’s recent positive COVID-19 test.
On July 7, a NE Glisan Burgerville location closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The company initially announced plans to reopen July 10, giving all impacted staff who worked with this employee on the day of their last shift, July 2, paid time off to self-quarantine for two weeks. The additional time closed was meant to allow the company to deep-clean and sanitize the shop, and to give employees who had worked with the infected employee time to get tested.
However, the Burgerville Workers Union felt that closing for only three days wouldn’t give employees enough time to get tested themselves. A group of workers went on strike Friday until the company decided to close the location until today, July 13. Now, Burgerville employees are back on strike for the day. Burgerville spokesperson Hillary Barbour says the company “decided to postpone the reopening” after “a few callouts.”
“Given that the worker who tested positive already was asymptomatic, there is no way of knowing who among the Montavilla crew was exposed to them while they were contagious,” a statement from the Burgerville Workers Union reads. “The consequences for failing to take necessary precautions could be deadly, but Burgerville refuses to require negative test results before returning to work, even with this deadly uncertainty.” The union wants the company to require negative COVID-19 test results before employees return to work, or that “anyone who reasonably may have been exposed self-isolates for two weeks.”
Burgerville’s corporate office sent out a press release detailing the steps Burgerville took once the company discovered the employee’s diagnosis, saying it followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s contact tracing guidelines to determine which employees were exposed, provided paid voluntary testing for employees, and paid employees who were scheduled to work during the store’s closure. The statement also says that all employees have wellness screenings including temperature checks before shifts, also maintaining social distancing requirements and wearing face coverings, per Gov. Kate Brown’s health and safety guidelines. The chain has also stuck to curbside pickup and drive-thru business, as opposed to opening dining rooms.
“Burgerville and the union have the same goal — to keep our employees and our workplace safe,” Barbour says. “We want to take care of our employees. We want everyone to be healthy and well. No reasonable person could look at the steps we’ve taken and think it hasn’t been enough.”
A spokesperson from Burgerville’s union says that the workers on strike feel safe returning to work tomorrow; because all the employees who worked with the COVID-19-positive employee on July 2 are also on a two-week quarantine, tomorrow will be exactly 14 days since the worker’s penultimate shift.