Workers at Little Big Burger Form Union, Joining Portland Fast-Food Labor Drive

“Soon there won’t be a burger flipped in this town that isn’t flipped by a union hand.”

Workers at Little Big Burger announced their formation of a union today at a rally outside the chain's Northwest 23 Avenue location.

The Little Big Union is demanding $5 per hour raises, fair and consistent scheduling, benefits, paid sick leave and transparent hiring and firing practices, its website says.

"Today the Little Big Union (LBU) delivered a letter to Little Big Burger Restaurant management," an LBU statement reads. "The message? You have a union now."

Little Big Burger was founded in Portland in 2010 by prominent restaurateur Micah Camden. It has since expanded across Oregon and into Washington, North Carolina and Texas. In 2015, the company was sold to the North Carolina-based multinational corporation Chanticleer Holdings.

It's not clear how many members the Little Big Burger union has. Isabel Crosby, a spokesperson for the Little Big Union, says the union has members at multiple stores in the Portland area and "an overwhelming majority of membership at the store location on NW 23rd and Lovejoy."

The union won't be formally recognized until Little Big Burger management agrees to do so voluntarily, or workers at the store vote in an NLRB union election. No voting has been held yet.

The Little Big Union is the second fast-food union in the city—and in the nation.

Last April, employees at a Southeast Portland location of Vancouver, Wash.-based chain Burgerville voted to form the first fast food union in the nation.

Since then, three more Portland-area Burgerville locations have voted to unionize. Last week, workers at the chain's Montavilla and Convention Center locations announced their intentions to file for National Labor Relations Board union elections.

Related: The Burgerville Union Drive Keeps Expanding, as Workers Grow Disgruntled by Wage Negotiations

In a statement, the Burgerville Workers Union offered support.

"If the BVWU stood alone," it wrote, "the industry CEOs would likely dismiss us as a one-off curiosity. And if that were true, then history as well would write us off as such. But today, for the first time in nearly three years, we are not alone."

The Burgerville Workers Union and Little Big Union are both part of the Industrial Workers of the World, an a 112-year-old labor union based in Chicago.

Adrian Oca, a representative for Little Big Burger, tells WW, "We did meet [with the union], we got their letter and demands and we're certainly going to review it."

He adds: "It seems like well organized group."

Workers at today's rally were joined by members of the Portland Democratic Socialists of America.

In a speech, DSA co-chair Olivia Katbi Smith said, "I can say from experience that organizing is fucking hard, especially in the places that need it the most. It seems impossible to ever imagine things changing for the better."

She continued: "And yet, the Little Big Burger workers face that head on day after day, and got to this spot today to tell us that they are still here together and united.

"Soon, she concluded, "there won't be a burger flipped in this town that isn't flipped by a union hand."

Related: Her Group Rallied Behind the Historic Union Drive At Burgerville. Can Olivia Katbi Smith Harness Portland's Left To Make an Even Bigger Impact?

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