For nearly a year, workers with the Burgerville Workers Union have been calling for a boycott in demand of fair contract negotiations with management.
Tensions between the two groups are still high. On Saturday, the BVWU is planning what it calls a "historic strike" over wage-increase proposals from company executives that the union deems too low. It's not clear how long the strike would last, but it would begin this Saturday, Oct. 19.
During a contract negotiation meeting today, Burgerville announced a $1 an hour raise for employees in all 41 restaurants in Oregon and Washington, starting December 30. In a statement, the company says the wage increases are possible via a $3 million loan.
"Burgerville is changing the way we do business," Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said. "We are engaging employees more, listening better and rebuilding trust."
The BVWU isn't impressed with the wage increase. It said in a statement today that the proposal is just an early implementation of state-mandated minimum wage increases. It also accused the company of undermining the work of the union.
"Given that Burgerville workers are actively preparing for their largest strike yet, it's clear to the union that this new policy is not a good faith effort to work with the union to improve working conditions, but rather an attempt to sidestep the union altogether," BVWU said in a statement. "We will not be pacified. If a meaningful contract agreement isn't reached, we will continue to escalate, and remain prepared to strike."
Negotiation meetings between the union and management are still ongoing today. The union plans to rally at 11 am on Saturday at Salmon Street Springs near the Hawthorne Bridge, and says it will strike after the rally if contract negotiations do not go as planned.
A spokesperson for the BVWU, Emmet Schlenz, says that the strike could extend beyond Saturday, if authorized, but that "the length of the strike remains to be decided by elected strike committees."
Burgerville declined to comment on what is currently happening at the bargaining table, but a spokesperson said, "Wages were so important to Burgerville leaders that they secured a loan for the sole purpose of enhancing employee compensation. That's how important this was to us."
The statement continued: "The goal is not to pacify the workforce or the union; it is to establish a more comprehensive career ladder for our committed workforce and increase wages for all members of our workforce. We believe we are demonstrating our commitment to these goals with the roll out of our new compensation structure, with the roll out of tips, and with our new holiday pay structure."