Employees of one of Portland’s most famous brands, Voodoo Doughnut, have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the latest step in a years-long fight for better working conditions and higher wages. The Old Town workers hope to hold an in-person election toward the end of the month.
Doughnut Workers United (DWU), the currently federally unrecognized union of Old Town Voodoo Doughnut workers, originally formed the union in March of 2020, responding to layoffs and safety concerns at the doughnut shop. In 2021, the union asked the company to voluntarily recognize its union, and eventually filed for an election; the vote was ultimately a tie, according to NLRB records, which means the union did not get NLRB representation. “This time won’t be a tie,” union spokesperson Mark Medina says. Voodoo Doughnut has not responded to Eater Portland’s request for comment.
The union’s goals have been relatively consistent over the last two years: Workers at the Voodoo Doughnut store in Old Town are seeking wage increases and “fair and consistent scheduling,” in the words of DWU organizer Samantha Medina, as well as increased safety protections for employees.
Those safety protections would address a number of ongoing issues at this Voodoo Doughnut location. Since 2020, the union has been seeking contract-protected COVID-19-related policies that would help prevent the spread of the disease, as well as enhanced security for employees at the store. The Old Town location, in a neighborhood that contends with higher rates of assault and violence, has struggled with robberies and attacks against employees; in 2020, union members said there have been several employees have been attacked at work, or coming to or from work.
Additionally, the union hopes to codify more protections for employees during extreme weather events. In 2021, Voodoo employees walked out of the store in protest during the June heat wave; several employees were concerned about the risk of heat stroke. At the time, the company published a statement, saying it had provided Gatorade and wet towels for employees during the heat wave, and shifted production hours (union members deny that the company changed work schedules during the heat wave). “Employee and customer safety is our highest priority,” the company statement reads. “If we felt either were at risk, we would not be open for business.”
Days later, Voodoo Doughnut management began firing employees who participated in the walk-out and strike; the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB, and the company eventually reached a settlement with employees. While union members say the company’s handling of the most recent heat wave was much better than the year before, reducing the heat-intensive work to keep temperatures cool in the shop, employees want to make sure those protections are a part of a contract to ensure they are enforceable. “Some things have been temporarily helped during this heat wave, and that’s great,” Mark Medina says. “That is a direct result of the company being forced to pay settlements.”
“If it’s not in a contract, it’s not legally binding,” Medina adds. “Nothing is preferable to a fair contract.”
This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.