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Another regional restaurant chain faces a unionization push

Employees of a Tudor's Biscuit World unit in West Virginia have petitioned federal regulators to schedule a union vote.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Employees of a Tudor’s Biscuit World in Elkview, W.Va., have filed a request with federal regulators to form a union, adding the 90-unit homestyle chain to a fast-growing list of restaurant companies facing active organizing efforts.

The staff members have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to schedule a vote on whether to be represented by United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union that claims 1.3 million members in the supermarket, retail and healthcare industries, among others.

Local news reports indicate the store employs about 25 people, though that figure could not be confirmed with Tudor’s, a regional brand with a strong following in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The franchisor did not respond by press time to Restaurant Business’ request for comment.

According to UFCW, employees of the Elkview restaurant were roused into action because of being “understaffed, underpaid, and mistreated by upper management.” Organizing proponents also alleged that COVID-19 protocols were not diligently enforced.

The UFCW says a majority of the Elkview employees favor the formation of a union.

Their stated motivation differs from the rationale given by other employee groups looking to organize their restaurant workplaces. Many, particularly the baristas of three Starbucks units in Buffalo, N.Y., stressed that they had no gripe with their employer and were unionizing to have more influence on their respective brand’s strategic direction.

Employees of those three Starbucks units are currently voting via mail on whether to be represented by an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Three more Buffalo stores are awaiting a National Labor Relations Board decision on their requests to hold a unionization vote, as is a lone Starbucks café in Mesa, Ariz.

The owner-operator of Darwin’s, a four-unit café chain in Cambridge, Mass., has agreed to cooperate in the formation of a collective bargaining unit by his employees.

Unions have already been formed by several additional small to medium-sized chains, including Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee, Wis., and Chicago; Spot Coffee in Buffalo; and five units of Burgerville, the Oregon-based quick-service brand.

Most of those unionization efforts came in a flurry after unions failed for decades to secure a foothold within restaurant chains.

The UFCW was not involved in those recent organizing efforts. West Virginia media reports say Tudor’s employees were drawn to that union because several had familial connections to the union. Those reports also noted that West Virginia is a stronghold of union activity. 

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