On Sunday, a group of workers at the Old Town location of Voodoo Doughnut walked out of the store, alleging working conditions inside the shop on the hottest weekend in Portland’s history were unsafe.
Now three of the employees who walked out have since been fired by the company, according to Doughnut Workers United, the union organizing workers there.
“We expect more to be fired in the days to come,” says union spokesperson Mark Medina.
Voodoo disputes that conditions in the store were unsafe.
Voodoo declined to comment on the firings citing a policy against discussing personnel matters, but spokesperson Audrey Lincoff says the Old Town location was “air-conditioned and we took measures to address warmer than normal conditions, including providing employees extended or additional breaks, and shifted production to early morning and late evening hours.”
“Employee and customer safety is our highest priority,” Lincoff adds, “if we felt either were at risk during this time, we would have adjusted operating hours and otherwise made sure everyone was safe.”
The company has not recognized the union at the Old Town location: “An election was held by the National Labor Relations Board on June 21, 2021, and the NLRB found that a union was not established,” says Lincoff. “Accordingly, there is no union at Voodoo Doughnut Old Town.”
Medina says workers are forming a picket line imminently and are planning other direct action demonstrations. An unfair labor practice complaint will also be filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Those three firings—all workers who participated in the strike on Sunday and Monday—happened on Tuesday afternoon, Medina tells WW.
Jose Luis was one of the employees fired Tuesday afternoon. He says he entered the back door at 1:55 pm so he could clock in at 2, and was asked to meet with Voodoo’s HR representative, where he was questioned on how explicit he was in the days leading up to the strike in expressing his concerns and complaints about the heat inside the shop.
“What it amounted to was basically [them saying] that because I didn’t say it explicitly, frequently and loudly, that that means I didn’t have the right to leave on strike,” Luis says. “They’re stating the official reason was job abandonment.”
Luis says he got his work shoes, left the building and then immediately texted the group chat of workers, warning them that he’d been fired and that others might follow.
The walkout is part of a long-standing power struggle over whether Voodoo Doughnut will recognize the unionization effort.
For over a year, Doughnut Workers United, which formed in March 2020, has been trying receive formal recognition from Voodoo’s corporate office. In February, they demanded that the company recognize them as a union. It didn’t.
Medina tells WW that there’s nothing legal that’s stopping the company from meeting and discussing negotiations with the workers.