Workers at the downtown Voodoo Doughnut location have given the company an ultimatum to voluntarily recognize their union, the Doughnut Workers United (DWU), or it will file a petition for a National Labor Relations board election. Mark Medina, a spokesperson for the union, tells Eater that Voodoo Doughnut will have until Thursday at noon to recognize the union before it files a petition with the NLRB. Medina says the union is extremely confident it would win a union election. “We are approaching unanimous agreement with overwhelming union support,” he says.
Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland doughnut chain that now operates shops in Austin, Denver, and Orlando, has long been a tourist destination in Old Town for its “maple blazer blunts” and raspberry-jam-filled voodoo doll doughnuts. Voodoo’s Old Town employees founded the union in March of 2020, largely in the face of the pandemic, when many workers at the store felt that they were not being adequately protected by the company. The union has fought for increased security presence after incidences like a man armed with a hatchet entering the store, and numerous incidences of female employees being followed after work.
Medina says that the union has provided food and support for struggling employees, and passed out KN95 masks to dozens of employees during last summer’s catastrophic wildfires; he says that that the company disposed of the protective gear because they were delivered by the union.
Samantha Bryce, an employee of Voodoo’s downtown location and a union leader, told Eater PDX that she dropped off boxes of the masks to store employees at various locations around town, only to be told later that the masks were immediately “removed from the premises.” She says that no justification was ever given to her or other employees as to why. Representatives from Voodoo Doughnut have yet to respond to requests for comment.
The union also wants Voodoo to rehire a number of employees furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic. Medina tells Eater that while 30 or so employees were initially laid off, only around three were hired back again; meanwhile, Voodoo hired around two-dozen new employees, in what Medina calls a clear attempt at union busting. “We have a list of people who still want their jobs back today if the company would be willing to do that,” he says. “That would show good faith on the part of the company.”
The election would only recognize workers at the downtown location of Voodoo, and would set them up to join the ranks of newly unionized food service workers, including Burgerville workers; the DWU would similarly be associated with the Industrial Workers of the World.
Between the pandemic, wildfires, and last summer’s protests against police brutality and racial inequity—as well as the radical police and federal guard response to the protests—many in the media have questioned the stability of downtown’s industry. Medina says that paying employees fairly rather than spending money on “union-busting” would benefit the downtown community, as employees could more readily support the local economy.
“The vote is so that workers ourselves have a legally binding seat at the table to negotiate over our essential work in a dysfunctional downtown that constantly forgets that its workers who make this neighborhood run,” says Lupe Miller, a worker at the downtown location, in a press release. “Everyone wants to write downtown’s obituary. I want workers who love and care for each other to write its next chapter instead.”
Voodoo Doughnut has not responded to multiple requests for comment. This is a developing story and will be updated with further information.
February 24, 8:45 a.m., this article originally named the IWW as the International Workers of the World. It has been corrected to Industrial Workers of the World.
• Voodoo Doughnut [Official]
• Doughnut Workers United [Official]
• As Restaurants Shutter in Wake of Coronavirus Pandemic, Portland’s Most Iconic Doughnut Shop Is Unionizing [EPDX]
• A Hatchet-Wielding Man Robbed the Voodoo Doughnut Downtown This Weekend [EPDX]
• Behind Portland’s Fight for Unionized Fast Food Restaurants [EPDX]