Voodoo Employees Wrongly Fired During June Heat Wave, Labor Board Rules

The fired employees will get their jobs back and receive back pay for the three months they were unemployed at the Old Town doughnut shop.

lede_OldTownRoseFest_008_WesleyLapointe_4532 (Wesley Lapointe)

Seven Voodoo Doughnut employees who were fired after walking off the job during the record-breaking June heat wave were wrongly terminated, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Oct. 6.

The board ordered that Voodoo rehire the employees and offer back pay for the more than three months they weren’t employed at the Old Town doughnut shop.

Voodoo Doughnut’s corporate office did not respond to a request for comment.

A majority of the Old Town location’s employees walked out of the shop during the 116-degree heat wave that blanketed Portland in late June. Employees at the time told WW that temperatures inside the shop swelled to even higher than the outside temperature, and that the presence of deep fryers exacerbated the stifling heat.

“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,” a Doughnut Workers United representative said at the time. “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.”

After walking out, seven employees were fired on the allegation of workplace abandonment.

The National Labor Relations Board also deemed that the company partook in inappropriate conduct by surveying its employees’ support for a union drive.

The doughnut company and its organized workers have been locked in a yearlong battle over union recognition and employee treatment. The striking employees are affiliated with the Portland chapter of Industrial Workers of the World, but Voodoo management has contended that no union exists.

For a year and a half 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, the workers demanded that the company recognize them as a union. It didn’t.

A spokesperson for Voodoo told WW in June that no union existed and, because of that, no bargaining was 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 company wrote at the time.

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