Voodoo Doughnut Workers Go on Strike, Claiming Sweaty Shop Conditions

“The doughnuts themselves melt in the heat as the frosting never fully dries,” the striking workers added in their Facebook post.

voodoo heat A patron in line at Voodoo Doughnut on June 26, 2021. (Chris Nesseth)

On Sunday, some Voodoo Doughnut workers at the Old Town location announced they were going on strike, alleging unsafe work conditions on the hottest day ever recorded in Portland history.

The striking employees are affiliated with the Portland chapter of Industrial Workers of the World.

“Today, on the 116th anniversary of the founding of the IWW, Doughnut Workers United went on strike to protest the conditions at Voodoo Doughnut. The weak A/C and water is not enough to protect the workers from the hottest day in Oregon history. In solidarity with each other the workers left together at 1:00 PM today,” a Facebook post by the Doughnut Workers United read on June 27.

The union alleged the internal temperature at the shop was so high that customers stepped inside and immediately departed. “The doughnuts themselves melt in the heat as the frosting never fully dries,” the striking workers added in their Facebook post.

It’s not clear what percentage of Voodoo workers walked out. “While the majority of laborers left,” the post continued, “we also wish to extend a hand to those who were coerced to stay. We wish them the best in their attempts to stay cool and hope they join their fellow workers tomorrow.”

As that language implies, the walkout was not merely about the heat, but part of a long-standing power struggle over whether Voodoo Doughnut will recognize the unionization effort.

For over a year now, Doughnut Workers United, which formed in March of last year, has been trying to get formally recognized by Voodoo’s corporate office. In February, they demanded that the company recognize them as a union. It didn’t.

A spokesperson for Voodoo told WW in an email that no union exists, and because of that, no bargaining is taking place.

“On June 21, 2021, the National Labor Relations Board issued a Certification of Results of Election, which stated that the tally of ballots show that a collective-bargaining representative has not been elected. There is no union and as a result, there is no bargaining,” a spokesperson for the union wrote.

The spokesperson did not respond to questions regarding how it’s responding to the strike or if it’s in talks with the striking employees, nor did it respond to the allegations by workers that working conditions were unsafe.

Tensions have been predictably high throughout the pandemic between workers and the company. In the fall, when Voodoo began hiring employees, workers railed at the store for allegedly not hiring back many of its employees who had joined the fledgling union.

Doughnut Workers United tells WW the extreme heat makes it unsafe to work, and that the “attempts to provide relief, such as Gatorade and wet towels, are insufficient and the current air-conditioning system is not up to the task of dealing with this heat wave.”

“We, Doughnut Workers United, decided the strike was necessary given the extreme heat making it unsafe to continue to work, especially during swing shift. No person should work in temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. Other establishments have taken the reasonable step of closing during this time while Voodoo Doughnut, with its large southwest-facing windows and deep fryers, has not,” the group said. “Corporate has not responded nor has management. We have so far not entered into contract negotiations with the company.”

The group told WW it plans to end the strike Tuesday, June 29, when temperatures are expected to drop back into the 90s.

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