Little Big Union: Employees of Local Fast Food Chain Announce Unionization & Gain Community Support

By Kanani Cortez|April 23, 2019News, Top Stories|

Employees of local Portland chain, Little Big Burger, announced in March that they would be unionizing in affiliation with the Industrial Workers of the World, the same organization backing the Burgerville union. Little Big Burger was founded in Portland in 2010 and is now owned by Chanticleer Holdings, who also owns and operates Hooters, among other restaurant brands. Since its founding, Little Big Burger expanded to 12 locations across Oregon and has a handful of locations in North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.

Following the announcement of Burgerville employees to unionize last year, Little Big Burger is the second U.S fast food chain to do the same, and has received support from their fellow burger restaurant. “It is incredibly encouraging and humbling to see the support we’ve received from other fast food workers both in Portland and around the country. The workers who organize and are part of the Little Big Union are very aware that we are part of a larger community of service workers who want our lives and working conditions to improve–and who are willing and impassioned to organize in order to make that happen,” says Kale’a Lee-Fleischman a Little Big Burger employee.

Little Big Burger restaurants are staffed by 3 primary positions. Managers, who have hiring and firing abilities, impose disciplinary actions, make the schedule, and work the general restaurant responsibilities. “Keys” acts as shift leads, they can send employees on proper breaks, and are guaranteed full time hours. However, some “keys” are still not consistently scheduled the hours they are promised. “Associates” are part time employees, and some often pick up extra shifts at different locations to get the hours they need for a consistent work week. Associates and keys are eligible to join the union, however managers are unable to since they are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act due to their ability to hire and fire.

PCC student and Little Big Burger employee, Christy Froblom, says she undoubtedly supports Little Big Union (LBU.) Froblom has been working at Little Big Burger since August 2018. Despite the LBU being Froblom’s first experience with unionizing, she did not hesitate to get on board.
“I learned about unions in terms of American history in high school. For the most part, I learned that unions protected workers rights and led to job security and a strong middle class. I also learned a few years ago about women working in factories in Mexico, maquiladoras who created a union due to mistreatment from large companies and I thought that was totally inspiring,” Froblom said.

Froblom has learned more about her rights as an employee from her coworkers and throughout this process of unionizing.

“I expect my employer to not only respect my rights as a worker, but educate us on them.

For example I had no idea that I was eligible for paid sick time until I learned through other union members,” Froblom said.

According to the LBU Facebook page, their demands include:
“$5 raises, fair and consistent scheduling, safe and healthy workplaces, respectful and professional conduct from management, benefits like child care, paid parental leave, quality healthcare, food boxes, bus passes, parking passes, shift beers, paid sick leave and vacation time, the right to refuse service to abusive/dangerous customers, holiday pay, transparent hiring and firing policies, and sanctuary workplaces.”

Chanticleer Holdings has yet to voluntarily recognize Little Big Union, if the company fails to do so, the employees can file for an election.

“In the meantime, as we wait not so patiently for the company to agree on a time to meet with us, we grow stronger with each passing moment, and we continue to gain community support,” Lee-Fleischman said.

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Kanani Cortez

About Kanani Cortez

Kanani Cortez, Staff Writer: Kanani Cortez is a student journalist from South San Francisco, CA. Her interest in journalism began at a young age when she saw how news and media is a way for disenfranchised communities to engage in issues that affect their communities. Prior to writing at The Bridge, Kanani wrote for El Tecolote in San Francisco, worked on The Womanist, and wrote and edited for The Campanil at Mills College. Through these publications she was able to cover issues such as resources for undocumented students, diversity in counseling services, and the decolonization of Guam which she hopes to expand on while writing for The Bridge.