Workers at several Portland Burgerville locations officially ended a record-long four-day strike on Sunday, October 27 after the company agreed to renegotiate wages. Pickets led by the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) were held between October 23 and 26 in front of several locations in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, as the union rallied for higher wages.
The BVWU, a group organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, began the strike in response to an offer by the company to raise wages by one dollar per hour for all employees. The union had demanded a raise of five dollars at all unionized stores, which would have raised hourly wages to 17 dollars. “We deserve a living wage, and we’ll fight tooth and nail until we get it,” the BVWU stated in a press release.
“A living wage, to me, means being able to not be worried about bills,” said Luis Brennan. Brennan is an organizer of the protests, a member of the BVWU and a Burgerville employee. He attended the October 26 picket. “[A living wage means] not, at the end of the month, [being] afraid you won’t be able to make ends meet.”
The Burgerville Workers Union was formed in April 2018. The first location to unionize was the restaurant at southeast 92nd & Powell, near Marshall High School in Portland. Five of the 47 Burgerville locations have joined the BVWU since it became the first fast-food restaurant to form a federally-recognized union in the United States. Since the BVWU’s formation, workers have gained holiday pay, as well as tip benefits. Compensation is equal between unionized and non-unionized workers.
A Vancouver employee was fired recently when he criticized a manager for wearing a Confederate tattoo. The union cited the incident as a cause for the strike.
Bargaining took place on October 25, and the union agreed to meet again with the company by November 5. “I am pleased with the progress that was made today, and the willingness of our company and the union to collaborate on several important issues,” Burgerville CEO Jim Taylor said in a statement.
Protests took place at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, Burgerville Corporate in Vancouver, Washington, and the locations in Montavilla and on Hawthorne in Portland.
Burgerville Corporate took out a three million dollar loan in order to raise wages by one dollar per hour for all crew members at all restaurants on October 18, the week before the strike, instead of the five dollar increase. The highest wages will be 16 dollars and 18 cents an hour, plus tips of 82 cents to four dollars and 24 cents per hour. The pay raise is scheduled to go into effect by December 30, according to the company. Portland’s minimum wage is set to increase by 75 cents an hour in July 2020. In practice, that means once the minimum wage rise goes into effect, the Burgerville raise would amount to 25 cents.
“As a business, are we perfect? Of course not,” said Hillary Barbour, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Burgerville. “Are we working to improve, and be the best we can? Absolutely,” Barbour continued.