The Burgerville Workers Union reached a tentative agreement on a contract with management of the Pacific Northwest fast food chain after more than three years of negotiations, representatives of Burgerville and the union announced Friday.
The contract is expected to be ratified by a vote of workers at five unionized Burgerville locations and will impact around 100 employees. Voting on the contract is expected to end by mid-December and, if passed, will make Burgerville the only fast food workforce in the country covered by a collective agreement.
The contract goes up for renewal May 1, 2023, when union spokesperson Mark Medina says their work will begin again.
“We view this as the groundwork to building up a union standard for a dignified life for workers — not as the end of the story,” Medina told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Saturday. “In the lead-up to the renewal of our contract, this should come as no surprise that we are absolutely ramping up to an escalation so that our workers get a deal they deserve, and that includes strikes, picketing — whatever it takes.”
Contract negotiations between the union and Burgerville management began in June 2018, but faced multiple set-backs, including seven worker strikes and a boycott campaign.
Negotiations appeared to fall apart in 2019, when the Vancouver-based company announced it would increase base pay by a substantially lower amount than what the union was asking for. On Oct. 19, union organizers led a march across the Hawthorne Bridge and wove a picket line around the chain’s popular Hawthorne Boulevard location, where they blocked all entrances for about two hours and turned away cars entering the drive-thru.
Negotiations continued, however, and an agreement was reached after 51 sessions between union leaders and Burgerville management, according to a statement released Friday by Burgerville.
The new contract would give employees a three month set schedule, paid vacation time, and paid parental leave, five paid holidays, and would end at-will employment allowing Burgerville employees to be fired without warning or cause. The contract also allows workers at unionized Burgerville locations to elect a “shop steward,” a union member who sits in on disciplinary and investigatory hearings, Medina said.
Several other wins already achieved by the Burgerville Workers Union will also be enshrined in the new contract, including bumping starting wages to $14.25 per hour and allowing employees to earn tips and get a free meal each shift.
The union felt ready to reach an agreement when Burgerville management agreed to reinstate a tipping system it had temporarily tested at its Lloyd District location in Northeast Portland. With the addition of tips, workers at that location earned between $22 and $25 per hour. Burgerville agreed to roll out a tipping system at its five unionized locations within 30 days of the contract’s ratification, Medina said.
“I am so pleased to reach an agreement that serves Burgerville employees, who are the heart of this company,” said Jill Taylor, Burgerville CEO, in a statement Friday.
The union announced Friday that it would end its boycott of Burgerville once the contract is ratified. Organizers also plan to host a celebration in mid-December to honor workers and community members who supported their efforts. Part of the day’s celebration will include training on labor law issues and ways to become part of a union, Medina said.
For Medina, the Friday announcement marked a rare moment to rest after more than three years of negotiating.
“It feels personally to me less celebratory and more like an exhale,” Medina said. “I hope that we can inspire people and workers to feel like it’s not hopeless. It is worth fighting for.”
— Catalina Gaitán; find them on Twitter @catalinagaitan_