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Another quick-service restaurant is unionized

Photograph: Shutterstock

The staff of a third Burgerville quick-service restaurant has voted to unionize, giving employees of the regional chain more leverage in contract negotiations between the home office and their bargaining representative, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

The IWW says the victory makes its affiliate representing Burgerville employees, the Burgerville Workers Union (BWU), the largest federally recognized quick-service workers union in the nation.

BWU said it would commemorate the victory by picketing Burgerville on Monday, Dec. 17.  

The union has been negotiating a new contract with 45-unit Burgerville for more than seven months, or roughly since employees of a unit voted to unionize in April. Among BWU’s demands is a $5 an hour raise across the board for employees, along with universal health insurance coverage.

Burgerville was one of the first restaurant chains in the nation to offer hourly workers health insurance, making it available years ago to any employee who logged at least 20 hours per week. The union says the threshold was subsequently raised to 30 hours. It wants to eliminate any work requirement as a determinant of whether employees qualify for coverage.

It has also pushed the chain to provide employees with child care. In total, the union has presented Burgerville with 26 formal contract demands, the chain says on one of its websites.

“The agreements that we reach on this initial contract will affect union members and the company for years to come—so, it’s imperative that we all get this right,” Burgerville says in a posted update on the negotiations.

“Burgerville remains committed to bargaining in good faith with the Burgerville Workers Union at Stores No. 32, No. 41, and No. 8,” a spokesman said in an email sent to members of the media Tuesday night.

Workers at store No. 32, the chain’s unit on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Ore., voted 13-9 in secret balloting Monday and Tuesday to be represented by the BWU.

The 55-year-old chain says it is neither pro- or anti-union, but pro-employee. It emphasizes that the rules and processes set by federal unionization guidelines have been meticulously followed.

The IWW, sometimes known as the Wobblies, has been trying to unionize Burgerville for two years. The situation is being closely watched by other chains as a gaugeof how interested restaurant employees may be in unionizing. 

The IWW has not been a major player in efforts to organize chains. The biggest union representing restaurant and hotel workers is the Service Employees International Union, which is also affiliated with the labor advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).

Burgerville is the major business of 95-year-old The Holland Inc. Most of its restaurants are located in Oregon and Washington.

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