Workers At Portland’s ‘Busiest’ Burgerville Say Managers ‘Are Trying To Bust Their Union’
(PORTLAND, OREGON) - Morrisha Jones is eight months pregnant and suspended without pay from her job at Burgerville. She says that's because the restaurant chain is retaliating against her for joining Burgerville's labor union. Her official violation? She left her name tag at home, but she says her manager didn't hide his real intent: "Whoever is involved in the Union," Jones recalls him saying, "he's going to treat them differently."
Jones, 23, works as a Cook at the Burgerville near the Oregon Convention Center in Northeast Portland. Employees say it's the highest-trafficked store in the chain, which is privately owned and headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. Four of Jones' Co-Workers at that restaurant tell WW similar stories. They claim their manager is retaliating against them for agitating to join the Burgerville Workers Union. In the 72 hours after 31 of the restaurant's 34 Employees signed and presented a letter to management on March 11th asking for voluntary recognition, Workers say managers at the Convention Center store doled out dozens of write-ups, two suspensions and one firing.
"I think a lot of people ‘are afraid to come into work because they're afraid of getting pulled into the office and written up,’" says Nisha Williams, a Burgerville Worker who says she was written up March 14th for texting while taking orders (She says she hadn't even looked at her phone). "They ‘didn't even pull me into the office.’ ‘They wrote me up on the floor in front of customers.’"
Employees say the justifications for the disciplinary actions are thin, with Workers getting written up for innocuous things like not wearing name tags in the proper position or commiserating with Co-Workers about long lines in between taking drive-thru orders.
Burgerville would not make a representative available to WW, but did issue a statement, vigorously denying the discipline is connected to the Union Drive.
Last April, Employees at the Burgerville on Southeast 92nd Avenue at Powell Boulevard voted to form the first Union at a fast-food chain in the Nation.
Since then, the Union Drive has spread to four other Portland-area Burgervilles - including the one near the Convention Center, which Employees say serves more customers than any of the company's 41 other locations in Oregon and Washington.
And on March 16th, the Union efforts expanded beyond Burgerville to Portland-based fast-food chain Little Big Burger. That company, founded by Portland chef Micah Camden, was sold four years ago to Chanticleer Holdings, which, among other things, owns Hooters Restaurants.
Local Labor Lawyer Mike Tedesco says he's not surprised by the level of conflict wrought by Portland's burgeoning Fast-Food Union Movement. "There's a playbook some employers have – ‘certain things they do to get the word out that there will be consequences to organization,’" Tedesco says. "One way to get the word out ‘is by intimidation.’ ‘Nobody wants to lose their job.’"
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