The Burgerville Workers Union Is Poised to Finalize a Contract With the Company

For more than three years now, the Burgerville Workers Union has launched strikes, pickets, and walk-outs, and negotiated over numerous meetings to win better pay, better job protections, and other demands from the local fast food company. The Portland Mercury was the first to break the news that the two parties will likely ratify a contract that will guarantee things like wage increases, holiday times, an end to at-will employment, and in-store tipping for the five unionized stores.

Expected to be ratified mid-December, the agreement will help settle what has been an, at times, acrimonious battle that included Burgerville firing employees and reported cases of union-busting. Mark Medina, a representative from the union, told Eater PDX that he was confident the ratification would be passed with a very high margin, and that union leaders had been in touch with members throughout the entire process. However, he says the union will continue to fight even if they decided to reject the contract, though that remains unlikely. “I think it will be an up-vote with a large majority, but if [the union] votes it down I’m just here to help,” he says.

One major sticking point for the union, Medina says, was that of tip collecting at unionized Burgerville stores, contractually obligated to start within 30 days of ratification. He explained that after tipping was implemented at the Lloyd Center location, take-home wages averaged around $22 to $25 an hour.

While the union publicly celebrated the victory on social media, it was by no means a clear end to the fight. “We got these concessions through seven boycotts and showing our strength, but this is just a first step,” Medina says. If signed, the contract will be revisited in May of 2023, and Medina says that they will use this groundwork to push for further concessions from the company.

To him, and other union organizers, it extends beyond Burgerville. While the contract will be the first of its kind — as Burgerville remains the country’s only federally recognized fast food workers union — they hope it will inspire other workers across industries. “We wanted to set an example for other workers,” Medina says. “And hopefully they won’t have to wait three-and-a-half years for it.”

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