Action Analysis

Burgerville Workers Launch Strike in Portland

From It’s Going Down

Members of the Burgerville Workers Union, a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a revolutionary anti-capitalist union, launched another strike on Tuesday, September 18th, which happened to be on “World Cheeseburger Day,” during which the Burgerville corporation was offering promotional food discounts.

The strike is the latest in a series of mass mobilizations, pickets, and demonstrations by Burgerville workers and their supporters in the Pacific Northwest over the period of several years to win better wages and conditions on the job in a rapidly gentrifying city. As we have documented on It’s Going Down in the past, despite Burgerville USA’s “progressive” facade, the corporation has responded to the organizing campaign by hiring union busting firms and firing suspected organizers and IWW leaders over ridiculous infractions.

Despite these attacks, in May the Burgerville Workers Union became the first recognized fast food labor union in history, and began a process of collective bargaining. Negotiations hit a snag however, when BWU members demanded the right to wear political buttons such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Abolish ICE,” whereas corporate tried to push a policy of not allowing any political buttons. In response, members of BWU launched a strike.

As the group wrote on Facebook:

Workers at the Montavilla Burgerville have walked off the job in protest of bad faith bargaining from corporate.

This August, dress code policies were updated to prohibit workers from wearing buttons displaying any personal or political messages. Not only was this change specifically meant to quiet support of Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE, but changing this policy during its debate at the bargaining table and making changes during bargaining is illegal.

The BVWU refuses to allow Burgerville corporate to go back on their word and to blatantly break labor law.

Later in the day the union reported:

Union members at the 92nd and Powell location have joined the strike! 10 more workers have walked out to join the protest against bad faith bargaining.

Folks wishing to support ongoing organizing efforts by Burgerville are encouraged to participate in a call in campaign against continued harassment and union busting:

Last month, Burgerville fired a key member of the bargaining team and an employee of 5 years for clocking in seven minutes late! Besides losing his source of income, our fellow union member lost access to his health-care plan and is still looking for work. While retaliation against workers who try to stand up for what is right is not a new story, the union busting campaign at the Gladstone store is an especially outlandish and egregious one that needs to stop!

After workers won union recognition in a landslide victory in May, General Manager of the store Michael “Mike” Dawson responded by launching an ongoing campaign to sabotage the daily work environment. You may remember Mike was found by the National Labor Relations Board to have illegally discriminated in the hiring process against a union member, resulting in Burgerville being ordered to pay $1,600 in back-pay to our co-worker Brookelynn for the unfair treatment.

Mike is in general an aggressive and poor communicator who verbally berates and disrespects workers, including even swearing at new hires, some of whom are as young as 16 or 17. During lunch rushes, Mike has been known to sit in the manager’s office to watch baseball games on his phone or scroll through right-wing news websites while the crew does all the work. Mike is notorious for intimidating workers into silence or quitting, slashing hours, and promoting active hostility at work. Not only this, but he has been especially keen on arbitrary discipline including officially writing up one union member merely for saying “I need to pee” while she was attempting to ensure coverage so she could use the restroom. And even more egregious has been the revelation that Mike recently began taking home his own private headset (for taking orders) to SPY ON CONVERSATIONS IN THE RESTAURANT REMOTELY, contributing to a culture of fear and tension on the shop floor.

We are disgusted at the behavior of Mike Dawson and disappointed, though not surprised, that Burgerville corporate not only fosters but protects this kind of leadership in their company, and would so brazenly fire one of the workers most actively engaged in bargaining.

Enough’s enough! Call Michael Dawson at (971)-777-9715 to let him know that the community will not stand for these antics! Stop the union busting.

For more updates, check BWU on Facebook.