Little Big Union (LBU), a group of Little Big Burger employees who sought to unionize the Portland-born restaurant chain, lost its union election on Tuesday.
Update, July 25:
Little Big Union acknowledged the loss in a statement sent to reporters Wednesday, but vowed to keep fighting on behalf of workers.
“We knew what we were up against from the beginning," said Ashley Reyes, a recently fired Little Big Burger employee, in the statement. "Little Big Burger has a track record of mistreating its employees, and we saw that in the election too, firing organizers, ripping down union posters, and rolling out a pretty sophisticated disinformation campaign with the help of their lawyers."
Little Big Union is "weighing responses and options together" for how to move forward, according to the media release.
LBU workers announced their intention to unionize back in March, citing low wages, unpredictable schedules, and a lack of transparency around decisions to fire employees as issues they’d work to fix using collective bargaining rights. They said they took inspiration from the Burgerville Workers Union, which became the first federally recognized fast food union in the country last year.
Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., Little Big Burger’s parent company, refused to voluntarily recognize the union, prompting the need for a vote among all Little Big Burger workers at Oregon's 12 locations. That vote happened this week.
“As it stands currently, the union did not win the election,” an LBU spokesperson told the Mercury. Of 109 eligible voters, 70 people voted, with 29 votes in favor of unionizing and 41 votes against it. LBU's spokesperson said 12 of the cast ballots are contested, meaning their validity has been called into question.
The lead-up to this vote was contentious. Little Big Burger employees alleged retaliation and even firings from their higher-ups after LBU’s plans were made public, and Chanticleer Holdings accused LBU of being “funded by outsiders and led by insurgents who bounce from employer to employer in order to create unrest.”
Chanticleer called for the unionization vote to happen in June. It’s an unusual move for an employer, rather than workers, to request a union vote, and LBU suspected Chanticleer was trying to control the terms of the vote and quash the union before it could get off the ground. Workers pushed back on Chanticleer’s suggested terms of having in-person elections at every store, which they said would make it difficult for some workers to vote because of timing. LBU negotiated for—and won—a mail-in election instead, which they said would ensure full participation.
Still, that wasn’t enough to gain a majority of votes in favor of unionizing.
It’s not clear what LBU’s next step will be now that Little Big Burger employees have voted against unionizing. LBU declined to comment further at this time, but we will update this post if we receive more information about the vote.