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Oct 17, 19

IWW Burgerville Workers Set to Launch Strike This Saturday

Fast food workers at Burgerville and members of the revolutionary anti-capitalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) say that if Burgerville corporate does not agree to their demands, they will launch a strike starting Saturday, October 19th, bringing to a close nearly a year and a half of ongoing contract negotiations and the birth of the first recognized fast-food labor union.

In late September the union wrote:

Over the last 15 months of contract negotiations, Burgerville has cancelled and cut short bargaining sessions. At times, they’ve shown up without a single counterproposal. They’ve brought to the table first very little, and then nothing at all on wages. Meanwhile, we and our coworkers can’t afford to keep waiting, and we’ve been bargaining and working on the contract with this sense of urgency.

Union members and their supporters have continued to put pressure on the company to meet their demands. In late September, “workers delivered a full draft of a union contract to the Burgerville Corporate office in Vancouver, backed by community support.”

In early October, “faith leaders gathered to send the message that the community is watching closely, and prepared to join the picket lines as soon as time runs out.” Then, on Friday October 11th, a picket was held one week before the final contract deadline.

Picket for a Fair Contract 10.11.19

Thanks to our allies and friends who showed up on the picket lines to support Burgerville Workers in their fight for a fair contract!Burgerville Corporate has until Friday, October 18th to sign a fair contract, or else we are prepared to escalate our actions. Join us on Saturday, October 19th at 11:00am at South Waterfront by the Hawthorne Bridge in a Rally for a Fair Contract!Solidarity with our friends who joined us on the picket lines including: Portland Association of Teachers, Oregon Education Association, @SEIU Local 49, SEIU Local 503, United Auto Workers, CWA Local 7901, IBEW Local 48, OFNHP, AFSCME Local 88, Portland Jobs with Justice, Unite Here! Local 8, Portland Democratic Socialists of America, Bus Riders Unite! – Portland's Transit Riders Union.

Posted by Burgerville Workers Union on Saturday, October 12, 2019

In the lead up to the strike however, Burgerville has attempted to stifle support for the union, by offering workers a one dollar wage increase.

As the union reported:

Today, during contract negotiations, just days before the union-imposed deadline to strike this weekend, Burgerville corporate announced a unilateral change to its wage policy, offering all workers a $1.00 raise beginning on December 30th, 2019. While this might appear on the surface as a concession to the Burgerville Workers Union, which has been fighting for a living wage for over three years- in reality, this move by corporate is a desperate attempt to undermine worker organizing efforts.

This is not a real raise, then, but a marketing ploy. Within minutes of taking a break from today’s negotiating session, Burgerville sent out a company-wide email announcing the new policy as an act of corporate benevolence- the way Burgerville tells it, the union had nothing to do with these changes, neither as the instigator or a collaborator.

Aside from this being a shady attempt to co-opt the union, today’s proposal merely amounts to offering the state-mandated minimum wage increase six months early. After July 1st, 2020, starting wages at Burgerville will revert to only $0.25 above the minimum wage, effectively wiping out any significant pay increase. After July, wages will go back to the status quo — the same status quo the union has been fighting to change for years.

Let us be clear. This is a desperate, last-ditch effort to avoid a strike. Burgerville is trying to pacify workers with an insubstantial raise that will be rendered meaningless in six months. Our message to Burgerville corporate is that we won’t be pacified. We remain prepared to escalate, and we are ready to strike.

As a full on strike looms, the Burgerville Workers Union is calling on supporters to mobilize for a demonstration on Saturday, October 19th. The union wrote in a statement:

After nearly one and a half years of bargaining–Burgerville workers delivered an ultimatum to corporate: sign a fair contract by midnight on Friday, October 18th, or we will severely escalate our actions against the company.

At this critical moment, we need our allies to stand with us more than ever to either celebrate a historic victory for the labor movement or escalate our actions in the fight for a fair contract! See you at Salmon Street Spring at 11:00am!

The union is holding a rally on Saturday starting at 11 AM near the waterfront in Portland to announce either the start of the strike or the finalization of the contract. Facebook event here.

The workers at Burgerville have launched a historic struggle and so far have managed to win 5 union elections in different stores, fought for and won tips, holiday pay, and an end to at will employment, while also fighting back against an attempt by management to fire and harass pro-union workers.

Since 2016, the union has built a culture of mutual support and direct action, while continuing to launch pickets, boycotts, and demonstrations, and standing firm against racist attacks on undocumented workers. If you are in the local area, please support their strike by coming out on Saturday and following the Burgerville Workers Union on social media.

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