Portland Burgerville Workers Union Threatens Legal Action After Companywide Ban on Wearing Political Buttons

“The union asks who do they serve—white supremacists or its anti-racist workers?”

(Daniel Stindt)

Burgerville executives yesterday instituted a ban on employees donning political flair including buttons that read "Black Lives Matter," and "Abolish ICE."

The Oregonian first reported the news. 

According to a release issued today by spokesperson Emmett Schlenz on behalf of the Burvergille Workers Union, after learning about the corporate button ban, "The union is actively considering legal options."

Conflict over pro-immigration buttons began in August, the Oregonian reported, when ten employees at Portland's 82nd Avenue Burgerville location were sent home after refusing to remove "Abolish ICE" and "No One Is Illegal" buttons from their uniforms.

Liz Graham, Burgerville's director of human resources, tells WW that the company had a "long-standing verbal policy prohibiting the wearing of personal buttons," but no written rule. The employee push-back last month catalyzed a formal dress code policy.

"The company is adopting [a uniform policy] that represents our long-standing commitment to creating a universally welcoming and inclusive environment for our customers and employees alike," Graham says. "It is a policy that is common in public-facing businesses and is in alignment with our mission: Serve With Love. It will become effective Thursday, September 13, 2018. We respect our employees' right to express their own opinions and we encourage them to stay active and engaged in forums outside the workplace."

Today's BVWU release challenges the company's "deeply unsettling" dress code and claim that it "serves with love."

"We wear buttons that say Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE because police brutality, racist deportations, white supremacy, and fascism do not cease to exist when we clock on at work," Schlenz says. "Burgerville's motto is 'serve with love.' The union asks who do they serve—white supremacists or its anti-racist workers?"

BVWU further accuses company executives of capitulating to a "swell of right wing outrage."

"When it came time to choose sides, Burgerville corporate sided with those who deny that Black Lives Matter and who support racism in all its many forms," Schlenz notes. "Their progressive reputation is nothing more than a flashy ad campaign."

The button ban comes four months after workers at the chain's 92nd and Powell Street location voted to become the first fast food restaurant in the nation to unionize.

Related: Southeast Portland Burgerville Employees Vote to Become the Nation's First Fast Food Union

Union negotiations are currently in progress. Along with a $5 an hour raise, healthcare and child care, BVWU is bargaining for a reversal of the political button-wearing ban.

And according the the BVWU twitter account, a call for customers to boycott the chain is still active. That boycott has been in effect since February, when the union began agitating for formal recognition.

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