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Burgerville: First Union Fast Food Contract

Workforce voting in first CBA in the US fast food industry

Kris LaGrange's picture
Nov 15, 2021

For the first time in the history of the fast food industry in the United States, workers at a fast food restaurant will be covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The deal came after three years of negotiations between the company, Burgerville, and the union, Burgerville Workers Union.

The burger chain, which is located in the Pacific Northwest, saw five of its locations organize. Those locations, which employ about 100 members, will now begin voting on the contract with results expected in mid-December. If the tentative agreement is approved, Burgerville will be the only fast-food chain whose employees work under a CBA, although other fast food chains like Collectivo Coffee and Starbucks have held union votes this year.

“We view this as the groundwork to building up a union standard for a dignified life for workers — not as the end of the story,” union spokesperson Mark Medina told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Saturday. “In the lead-up to the renewal of our contract, this should come as no surprise that we are absolutely ramping up to an escalation so that our workers get a deal they deserve, and that includes strikes, picketing — whatever it takes.”

Getting their first contract has not been easy. Negotiations began in June of 2018 and since then they have started and stopped numerous times and included seven worker strikes and a boycott of the company, which continues to this day and will end once the agreement is approved by the members. According to a press release announcing the deal, the two sides met 51 times to work out the deal.

The new contract would give employees a three-month set schedule, paid vacation time, and paid parental leave, five paid holidays, and would end at-will employment allowing Burgerville employees to be fired without warning or cause. The contract also allows workers at unionized Burgerville locations to elect a “shop steward,” a union member who sits in on disciplinary and investigatory hearings, Medina said.

Other wins that had been achieved before the agreement was signed, but will now be included in the tentative agreement, include starting wages at $14.25 per hour and allowing employees to receive tips and get one free meal per shift. The union says that they decided to agree to the deal once the tipping provision, which was being tested at one location but will now be rolled out in all five locations, was included. They say that the tips raise the average wage to between $22 and $25 an hour.

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