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The Burgerville Workers Union Has Ratified Its First Contract With the Company

Burgerville employees will now have expanded sick leave, wage increases, and more job protections in their new contract

Burgerville workers strike during the summer
Burgerville workers strike during the summer
Burgerville Workers Union/Official

For more than three years now, the Burgerville Workers Union has launched strikes, pickets, and walk-outs in pursuit of better pay and workers protections, all while negotiating the terms of its first union contract. Today, the union ratified that contract, which includes wage increases, paid vacation time, an end to at-will employment, and in-store tipping for the five unionized stores. Both Burgerville and the union believe it’s the country’s first ratified collective bargaining agreement for a fast food restaurant.

The Portland Mercury was the first to break the news that the two parties reached an agreement back in November, before it was put to a vote among union members. In addition to vacation time, approved tipping, and wage increases, the union contract also includes things like set three-month schedules, paid parental leave, and expanded sick leave. Over the last month, 75 percent of union members voted on the contract, with 92 percent voting to ratify. The contract expires in May 2023.

The agreement will help settle what has been an, at times, acrimonious battle that included Burgerville firing employees and reported cases of union-busting. Mark Medina, a representative from the union, told Eater PDX that he was confident the ratification would be passed with a very high margin, and that union leaders had been in touch with members throughout the entire process. However, he says the union will continue to fight even if they decided to reject the contract, though that remains unlikely. “I think it will be an up-vote with a large majority, but if [the union] votes it down I’m just here to help,” he says.

One major win for the union, Medina says, was that of tip collecting at unionized Burgerville stores, contractually obligated to start within 30 days of ratification. He explained that after tipping was implemented at the Lloyd Center location, take-home wages averaged around $22 to $25 an hour. However, the union is already thinking about the next contract negotiation and union goals, including things like more paid holidays and 15-minute breaks.

“Far from being the last of our story, this is the beginning of our next chapter as we push to build a union standard for fast food, with all our emerging allies around the US,” reads a statement from the Burgerville Workers Union.

To Medina, and other union organizers, it extends beyond Burgerville. Burgerville’s union laid the groundwork for union action at places like Voodoo Doughnut and Little Big Burger, and inspired the development of Shift Change PDX, the food service wing of the Portland Industrial Workers of the World. The Burgerville Workers Union hope that the contract will inspire other workers across industries. “We wanted to set an example for other workers,” Medina says. “And hopefully they won’t have to wait three-and-a-half years for it.”

Updated Friday, December 17 at 3:51 p.m.: This story has been updated to show that the contract has been ratified.