Report from Little Big Burger workers of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Portland, Oregon about a recent job action.
On Friday night May 3rd 2019, workers at Little Big Burger (LBB) on NW 23rd went on a work stoppage due to unsafe working conditions and understaffing. These are both chronic problems and both par for the course at Little Big Burger locations across the city. LBB workers report that weekend shifts are always understaffed at the NW 23rd location, presumably to keep company costs low and profits high. During this night’s dinner rush, after LBB management had failed to find coverage for an employee that called out and with customers waiting in long lines, the three workers and one manager were left scrambling. The line snaked out the door and the sinks had overflowed, flooding the back room.
Due to the understaffing and resulting flooding being a safety hazard, workers saw no other option but to walk off the job, so that these issues could be addressed. At 8:30pm, workers notified management that they would be leaving their shift and would return at 10pm to close the restaurant. But upon their return at 10pm, they were told to clock out, leave, and not help with closing duties.
— Little Big Union 🍔✊🏼✊🏾✊🏿 (@LBU_IWW) May 4, 2019
On the following Saturday May 4th, upon arrival to clock in, these workers were informed that they would not be working that day. They were instructed to meet off the premises with three LBB upper managers who interrogated each worker about what had happened the night before and sent them home on temporary suspensions.
Then Sunday May 5, Ashley Reyes, a Little Big Burger employee of nearly two years came to her shift as scheduled and was fired. There was no mention of the investigation and when Reyes asked why she was being fired, she was told she would not get an answer. Two days after Ashley engaged in concerted collective action with her co-workers she was denied hours, interrogated, suspended, and then fired by corporate management. It doesn’t get more clear than this, Little Big Burger and Chanticleer Holdings are union busting. Violating workers’ Section 7 rights of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
Little Big Burger workers and members of the Industrial Workers of the World went in to support Ashley in her meeting by reading a letter outlining the workers’ demands: concede the obvious safety hazard, enact decent and fair scheduling practices, agree to neutrality with the union, and most crucially, reinstate Ashley, Bradley, and Jules with back pay for this shameful retaliatory suspension. Despite corporate claiming to have an “open door policy” with employees, they ignored us and stormed out of the store as workers attempted to read the letter allowed.
Ashley is known for her hard work in the shop and beloved by her co-workers for her passion for helping anyone in their time of need. She always listened to workers’ problems, at work or otherwise, she even bought people snacks when they were having bad days. Ashley was open about her support of the union and her choice to speak up about unsafe and unfair working conditions. Now she is without her full time employment, which was necessary for her to pay rent, and make bills.
Us workers are the union. All workers can do is support and advocate for each other. While all the boss will try to do is undermine solidarity by stoking fear, confusion, and division. Their playbook is that simple. #1u pic.twitter.com/lOuFGZ7zXN
— Little Big Union 🍔✊🏼✊🏾✊🏿 (@LBU_IWW) May 5, 2019
Corporate management questioned the workers’ assertion that the restaurant was an unsafe working environment and claimed to be conducting an investigation into the incident. But workers know when they are being exposed to undue risk on the job just to improve profits. Workers know that unaddressed slip hazards are OSHA violations, as evidenced by the three recent slips and workers compensation claims for this exact issue at the NW 23rd location alone. In short, workers who engaged in collective activity are being retaliated against!
The workers of the Little Big Union are unbroken by corporate’s attempt to stoke fear, confusion, and division between us. Union busting bullies will keep trying to beat us down, but we choose to stand—union strong. Help support workers by donating to our strike and hardship fund and by emailing email@example.com, telling regional manager Adrian Oca to stop union busting and rescind all disciplinary actions by REINSTATING ASHLEY.
Donate to the Strike & Hardship Fund here: https://www.gofundme.com/littlebigunion