Fast Food Revolt Continues to Grow in Portland

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Fast food workers in and around the Portland area have been making big moves recently. A week ago, members of the Burgerville Workers Union (BWU), a part of the revolutionary anti-capitalist labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), announced that workers at the Convention Center and Montavilla Burgerville stores were filing for recognition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This would bring the total amount of Burgerville stores officially recognized with union representation to 6 in total. In response, corporate has launched attacks on several workers. BWU wrote on Facebook:

Workers at Burgerville are facing retaliation after filing for a union election! At the Burgerville near the Covention Center over 10 workers have been disciplined and 1 fired in the two days since they filed with the NLRB on Wednesday! They even suspended a core union leader for not wearing a name tag, just two days before she was set to start maternity leave.

But as the struggle at Burgerville has grown, another group of fast food workers has been preparing to go public with their own campaign. Then on Saturday, March 16th, workers at the Little Big Burger, joined with members of the Portland branch of the IWW, members of the Burgerville Workers Union, DSA and other groups, marched in Northwest Portland carrying banners announcing the, “Little Big Union.”

More than 100 demonstrators marched on the “eco-friendly and gourmet,” Little Big Burger, presenting management with a formal letter requesting union recognition. As Oregon Live wrote:

Little Big Burger employees say they want to improve working conditions and demand higher wages. They’ve also cited concerns about safety violations, short-staffing and under-scheduling of workers and poor training.

“We are out here to tell Little Big Burger that they can do better,” said Ashley Reyes, a worker at Little Big Burger on Northwest 23rd Avenue. “We have ideas about what that means – fair schedules, better wages, a safer workplace — but for now we’re focusing on just telling LBB that we’re here, we’re strong and we’re not going away.”

“The Burgerville Workers Union has always been proud of our status as the only fast-food union in the country, but today, we take far more pride in saying that we’re no longer alone,’’ the Burgerville union said in a statement issued Saturday. “We may have been the first, but we knew we would not be the last.’’

Little Big Burger has nine restaurants in the Portland metropolitan area. It’s a subsidiary of Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., and was founded in Portland in 2010.

Writing on Facebook, Burgerville Workers Union commented:

Since we first started organizing three years ago, the BVWU has recognized that the only way to abolish poverty wages in Portland and establish a livable union standard, is for fast food workers across the industry to organize.

Today, we feel so proud and inspired to be able to welcome our fellow workers from Little Big Burger beneath the banner of our shared union, the IWW. The incredible work of the Little Big Union proves that the fight to end poverty wages for fast food workers will not stop at Burgerville, but spread across the city and across the industry.

To the workers at Little Big Burger: thank you for reminding us all that a better world is possible. With love and solidarity, welcome to the union!

The day after the rally, Little Big Union posted on Facebook:

Also a follow up from yesterday’s rally. Management asked 23rd workers if “there’s anything they can fix right now”. Workers said they needed gloves to keep from cutting their hands on vents that they take down at night. Gloves were delivered the same day. There is power in a union!

Follow Little Big Union on Facebook here and on Twitter here.


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