Little Big Burger Hires Prominent Portland Law Firm as Tensions With Workers Grows

One worker alleges she was fired for her union activity. Management denies the claim.

(Abby Gordon)

Tensions are quickly escalating between workers and management amid Portland's second fast food union drive.

Last month, employees at Little Big Burger on Northwest 23rd Avenue went public as the Little Big Union. (Despite the announcement, workers at the store have yet to vote in a National Labor Relations Board election and gain formal recognition.)

Now, the company has hired a prominent local firm, Bullard Law Group, for legal guidance on the union activity. Bullard Law also represents the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, a Portland non-profit that is currently pushing back against employee unionization, and Burgerville, which last month walked back disciplinary actions after WW published accounts of multiple workers who alleged union busting.

Adrian Oca, a representative for Little Big Burger, says the company "respects the rights of every LBB employee to support or not support a union."

But the Little Big Union in a statement today alleges hostile treatment. It claims one Little Big Burger employee, Ava Turner, was fired recently for supporting the union, but notes her formal infraction was showing up late to work. "Her coworkers find this reasoning suspicious," the statement reads, "and demand an explanation, as past instances of tardiness have not historically resulted in a firing."

LBU says it filed a request with management on Friday, April 19, for the company to undo Turner's firing but got no response and has now filed a complaint with the NLRB.

Oca could not comment on the specifics of the disciplinary action, but denies that Turner was discriminated against for union activity.

"Out of respect for the privacy of our employees, we do not comment on the circumstances of an individual employee's discipline," Oca says. "We hold all of our employees to the same standards, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or any other status protected by law.  There was absolutely no discrimination in this case."

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