Established in 1961, Burgerville, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, is a restaurant chain with 42 locations throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. Burgerville’s 1,500 employees work together to provide guests seasonal, local food as part of its mission to “Serve With Love.”
At Burgerville, the commitment to fresh, local and sustainable values is about helping people and communities thrive. Burgerville’s employees are the key to everything we do, and Burgerville is passionate about providing them with meaningful work in a quality environment where all feel valued and respected.
For 57 years, Burgerville has been a leader in the fast-food industry. It was the first regional chain to offer cage-free eggs, 100 percent antibiotic-free and hormone-free proteins, and offset 100 percent of its electricity use with renewable energy credits. It supports 989 Northwest family farms and ranches and other local sourcing partners. It is beloved for its quality burgers, handcrafted shakes, and seasonal specialties like Walla Walla Onion Rings and fresh Yakima Valley Asparagus; but also lauded for its commitment to local, small farmers, antibiotic-free and hormone-free proteins, sustainable business practices, and a fair, friendly workplace where everyone is welcome.
Industrial Workers of the World
In April 2016, the Portland Chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) formed the “Burgerville Workers Union” (BVWU). The IWW is an international labor union based in Chicago that is working with support from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize fast-food employees. According to Wikipedia, the IWW is a general union whose members are further organized within the industry of their employment. It maintains that unions are not about government certification or employer recognition, but workers uniting to address shared concerns.
From the Preamble to the IWW Constitution: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the earth.”
The IWW is currently supporting a series of Food & Retail Chain Workers campaigns nationally and internationally. The IWW was publicly revealed as the organizer of the Burgerville campaign on March 28, 2018, when the “Industrial Workers of the World d/b/a Burgerville Workers Union” filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking to represent Burgerville employees at Burgerville Store #41.
FAQs About the Union
Burgerville is committed to each of its employees having an equal voice in the creation of a union. Under federal labor law, an employer may voluntarily recognize a union without a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election if there is evidence or good reason to believe that a majority of employees supports the union. This oversight exists both for the protection of the employees interested in forming a union as well as the employees who are not interested in forming a union.
After two years of efforts, on March 28, 2018, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Portland Chapter d/b/a Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) filed a petition for an election with the NLRB, which requires it demonstrate that at least 30 percent of the employees have signed authorization cards, a requirement to hold a vote.
As per NLRB’s rules, once sufficient interest in a vote has been provided in the form of signed authorization cards, a particular process governed by the NLRB begins. Beginning in 2016, IWW/BVWU union organizers have been demanding recognition despite federal labor laws that prescribe when it is appropriate for an employer to recognize the union: when there is evidence of a majority (50 percent +1) support. Burgerville has carefully adhered to the NLRB’s process to help ensure the interests of all Burgerville employees were heard in the decision.
Federal labor law designates what employers and unions can and cannot do, and the rules for each are different. During the two-year IWW/BVWU organizing campaign, Burgerville has been unable to make changes in wages, hours or working conditions that would constitute a change in the status quo for Burgerville. Union organizers may make promises to employees about wages, hours and working conditions—even though unions have no way of guaranteeing they will deliver on their promises. Employers are strictly prohibited by federal law from making any promises to employees about changes to wages, hours and working conditions.
Burgerville absolutely supports the rights of its employees to vote in a secret ballot box election regarding whether they want a union. By holding a vote at Burgerville Store #41 with NLRB oversight, every employee had the opportunity to make the decision for him/her/their self.
Burgerville is not for or against a union. The company is pro-employee. For more than 55 years Burgerville has worked directly with its employees successfully in building the company as a community favorite. Since the formation of the BVWU by the IWW, Burgerville has been waiting for the opportunity for the employees at store #41 to participate in a fair and free election to determine whether they wish to be represented by a union.
Federal law protects every employee’s right to oppose a union just as it protects their right to support one. An employee’s right to refrain from union organizing activity is protected by law to protect against intimidation or harassment. Payment of dues is typically part of the union relationship from that point forward for all employees, whether they choose to join the union or not.
As a business, Burgerville has clear policies regarding workplace practices for safety, security and professionalism. In cases where policies have been clearly violated, Burgerville will terminate any employee for cause; such as in the case of theft. Burgerville applies these policies fairly and non-discriminatorily. There have been no findings to date by the NLRB that any employee has been terminated unlawfully because of union organizing.
Absolutely not. Burgerville respects the rights of every employee to support or not support a union. No one will get in trouble, be treated differently, or be retaliated against by Burgerville in any way for having signed an authorization card or having supported the union.
Burgerville will bargain in good faith with the representatives of the employees of store #41 and store #8.
Timeline on Efforts to Unionize Burgerville Workers
The “Burgerville Workers Union” (BVWU) was formed by the Portland Chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), with support from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The IWW is an international labor union based in Chicago.
BVWU held numerous rallies, marches and fundraising events.
BVWU held its first picket of 2018 outside of Burgerville’s N.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. store in Portland.
IWW/BVWU announced a call for consumers to boycott the regional fast food chain until the company agrees to negotiate with the union. The announcement came amid a three-day strike that began in the Portland area at the N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. store, which then spread to an additional three Portland stores: S.E. Powell Blvd. and 26th Ave. S.E. Powell Blvd. and 92nd Ave., and 19119 SE McLoughlin Blvd.
Representatives from the IWW and BVWU requested that Burgerville voluntarily recognize the union. Burgerville declined in favor of allowing the union to petition for a vote for all employees at Burgerville Store #41, located at 3504 SE 92nd Ave., Portland, OR, 97266.
“Industrial Workers of the World d/b/a Burgerville Workers Union” filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking to represent Burgerville employees at Burgerville Store #41.
Burgerville responded to the filing with the following statement from Beth Brewer, Senior VP of Operations: “On March 28, 2018, the Industrial Workers of the World, Portland Chapter, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking to represent Burgerville employees. Burgerville respects the right of every employee to support or not to support the organization of a union. The NLRB has scheduled a hearing on this matter to determine if a vote is desired by the employees. Burgerville will abide by the NLRB’s decision and guidance.”
Burgerville issued a press release stating that the company will waive an NLRB hearing and support the free vote by employees to decide if they want to unionize Burgerville Store #41.
“Industrial Workers of the World d/b/a Burgerville Workers Union” filed with the NLRB seeking to represent Burgerville employees at Burgerville Store #8, located at 19119 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Portland, OR, 97267.
The NLRB election was held at Burgerville Store #41, where workers voted in favor of forming a union. After the vote, Beth Brewer, Senior VP of Operations for Burgerville said, “Our employees have spoken, we hear them, and we support their decision. We will navigate this new working relationship together in a positive, productive way and bargain in good faith with the union at Burgerville Store #41. We are proud of our relationship with our coworkers, and we will continue to provide a fair, positive work environment for all. Burgerville has always been a leader in the fast-food industry, being the first regional chain to offer cage-free eggs, 100 percent antibiotic-free and hormone-free proteins, and off-set 100 percent of our energy use with renewable wind credits, while also supporting 989 Northwest family farms and ranches. With the same pioneering spirit that Burgerville is known for, we are ready to support the nation’s first unionized fast-food store.”
Burgerville reached out to IWW, Portland Chapter to begin negotiations
Burgerville waived NLRB hearing and moved to a stipulated election agreement for a free and fair vote at Burgerville Store #8 on May 12 and May 13, 2018.
The NLRB election was held at Burgerville Store #8, where workers voted in favor of forming a union.