Burgerville Workers Union Calls For Boycott of All Stores
Burgerville Workers Union Calls for Boycott of All Stores
The formation of the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU), in 2016, came as a pleasant surprise to everyone except Burgerville’s upper management team. The demands coming from the union are reasonable. They want a 5$ an hour raise (from the minimum wage, which they consider a starving wage,) across the board, they want affordable healthcare, provided by the company, but above all else, they want communication with the upper management team, and to be recognized as a formal union. Burgerville workers were ignored for almost two years, so they kicked things into overdrive. After a three day strike consisting of employees from multiple stores, they are now asking the general public to boycott all 44 of the company’s stores, across the NW.
The timing couldn’t be better. The NW Labor Press illustrates the antagonistic environment workers are organizing under:
The union says as many as six pro-union workers have been terminated by the company on trivial pretexts. The most recent was Canaan Schlesinger, fired Jan. 31 from the MLK store less than two months after he was hired. The official reason: Theft, for having put a dollop of Soft Serve ice cream in his coffee instead of cream. The real reason, he says: “They identified me as a union agitator.”
This appears paradoxical when their advertising for the Sound Food Uprising Summit 2018, has this to say about Jill Taylor, the company’s CEO:
As CEO of Burgerville, Jill Taylor brings a holistic view of food to the company, one that includes the health of the region’s soils, farms, and people. Jill is committed to empowering Burgerville and its partners in service of the company’s mission ‘Serve with Love’ to positively impact social change in the Pacific Northwest.
Furthermore, according to Stefan Stackhouse, a union organizer, last week at a food justice conference in Seattle, a number of BVWU supporters attempted to question Jill Taylor on her stance regarding the unions activity. She refused to comment.
Burgerville employees maintain a clear mantra, that “this is not personal,” and they refuse to allow the management to persuade them into believing it is, through guilt tripping or any other tactics.
When asked about his time working for Burgerville PCC student Felix Graham said “I worked there a couple of years ago and only made 25 cents above minimum wage. Management was a mess all the way up the chain, I even saw managers bullying other managers.”
Many local progressive and community organizations such as: Community Alliance of Tenants, Jobs with Justice, Portland Tenants United, SEIU, Portland chapter of the IWW, etc.. have turned out to support BVWU in their fight for a decent wage and a union. You do not have to look far to see these members of the community on the picket line alongside BVWU workers.
The Bridge’s own Dom Belcastro (speaking here as a representative of the Community Alliance of Tenants [CAT]) spoke at their recent rally at the Convention Center Location. He had this to say:
I am a renter, a former fast food worker. This struggle is righteous, it is necessary, and what we want is a strong union that brings back the dignity we often have to give up to gain a job.
In the days since the boycott was announced there was yet another retaliation by the Burgerville management. On Valentine’s Day a worker of color (the third in a string of recent retaliations) was suspended under the hyperbolic claim of theft. The union is considering this a direct act of racism and they point to Burgerville’s all white management as evidence.