Employees at the Gladstone Burgerville have officially gained union recognition from the restaurant's management.
This victory for the Burgerville Worker's Union (BVWU) comes after a storewide vote conducted over the weekend—a vote which found 17 of the 22 employees were in favor of unionizing, in hopes of acquiring a $5 per hour raise, reliable schedules and affordable health care, among other demands. The majority vote automatically forces Burgerville's top brass to acknowledge the union's existence and agree to meet with the employees to negotiate a contract.
This official vote, overseen by facilitators from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), only became a necessity when Burgerville refused to voluntarily recognize BVWU. According to multiple Gladstone Burgerville employees, this vote was preceded by textbook union-busting techniques, like drastically slashing longtime employees' hours, openly lying about the consequences of unionizing, and prohibiting employees from talking to each other during shifts.
This particular restaurant, located at 19119 SE McLoughlin Blvd., is the second in the fast food chain's 42 locations to gain union recognition. In April, employees at Burgerville's SE 92nd and Powell store voted 18-4 to unionize, making Burgerville the country's only recognized fast food union.
Shortly after this vote, Burgerville took out two full-page ads in the Oregonian to take credit for their employees' work. "We've never been afraid of going first...while we don't know exactly where this journey will bring us, we know that it will be great because we'll go there together," read one of the ads.
Great to hear that Burgerville is proud of our work, despite fighting us tooth and nail since we went public two years ago. They’ve retaliated against us, refused to recognize us, and now, they take credit for the struggle of their workers. #BoycottBurgerville until a contract! https://t.co/9YZMeKTnly
— Burgerville Workers Union (@BVWkrUnion) April 25, 2018
To Burgerville employees, many who've worked at least two long years to try and get Burgerville to voluntarily recognize and respect their union, this PR move rang hollow.
"It was the dumbest thing I've ever seen in my life," Jairin Ervin, a Gladstone employee, told the Mercury in April. "There was no recognition to the workers at all—that made me pretty angry. They're just trying to spin it to their benefit."
In a press release response to today's vote, Burgerville's Senior VP of Operations Beth Brewer said: "Burgerville is a progressive, pro-employee company: we have supported our employees with the freedom to educate themselves about the options of joining a union."
Brewer said she supports the Gladstone decision and will bargain "in good faith" with the new union. While there is no institutional history of Burgerville working with BVWU, Brewer said unionizing "works out well for both our business and the communities we serve." It's unclear how she came to that conclusion.
On May 22, Burgerville will attend its first bargaining meeting with the newly-unionized SE Powell employees. We're yet to hear when that meeting will take place with the Gladstone employees. But one thing's certain: This is just the beginning of broader employee-led movement to unionize all Burgerville stores. These two stores' victories have signaled to other locations that unionizing is possible, and strengthened resilience within their ranks.
"It's incredible... that feeling of knowing the people I work with and care about have my back, and knowing we will stick together to make these changes," Gladstone employee Stefan Stackhouse told the Mercury. "It's been an amazing experience."