After Over a Year of Campaigning, Burgerville Agrees to Allow Employees to Vote to Unionize

The fast food franchise will waive a National Labor Relations Board hearing and allow employees at a Portland store to decide if they want to form a union.

Burgerville announced today that it will allow Portland employees to vote to on whether or not they want to unionize.

The announcement comes after almost two years of Portland Burgerville Workers Union campaigning efforts—which reached a head in February, when the group called for a boycott of the fast food chain.

A month later, on Monday, March 26, the group drove to the Burgerville headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., with a message: recognize the majority employee support for a union at the Southeast 92nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard location or we'll demand a National Labor Relations Board-administered election.

After receiving backing from the Industrial Workers of the World, it turns out an election is what the Burgerville Workers Union will get.

"Burgerville believes that every employee's voice needs to be respected and protected," Beth Brewer, senior VP of Burgerville Operations said in a statement today. "The NLRB has very specific rules, and the voting process is created so that it's not a few individuals deciding on behalf of an entire company or one store."

Portland Burgerville employees will be formally represented by the IWW, and the stipulations for the election will be decided upon between Burgerville and the NLRB.

"If the IWW were to win an election at Burgerville Store #41," Brewer says, "Burgerville will bargain in good faith with the union."

She adds, "For over 55 years we've worked successfully and directly with our employees; if the employees vote to form a union, that will change, and they will be represented by the IWW."

Emmett Schlenz, a Burgerville Workers Union spokesperson, says the group is excited about the change in tone from the chain's executives.

"Up to this point," Schlenz says, "they've been engaged in some pretty serious union busting campaigns—which included firing a number of pro-union workers and hiring armed guards to patrol our pro-unionizing efforts."

Schlenz says the organization hopes that Burgerville's newly amenable tone will carry through the election and negotiation processes. The union group's demands, he says, are the same as they were when they went public in April 2016. Those demands include a $5 an hour raise for hourly employees, "considerate scheduling" and health care.

Fort its part, IWW—a Chicago-based international labor union that has also organized Starbucks and Jimmy John's employees—hopes to use this fight to create the "Nation's First Fast Food Union."

A timeline for the voting process has yet to be announced.

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