After three years, multiple strikes and dozens of bargaining sessions, the Vancouver-based fast-food chain Burgerville has reached a tentative contract with the Burgerville Workers Union. It’s the first such labor contract in the nation’s fast-food industry, both parties said.
“What a great way to celebrate our 60th birthday year,” Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said in a written statement. “I hope the agreement will be ratified quickly and a contract signed before the end of the year.”
Union organizer Mark Medina said he expects members to ratify the agreement by mid-December. Company leaders must also approve it.
The scrappy Burgerville Workers Union won federal recognition in 2018. It now represents workers at five of the company’s 40 locations in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Upon approval, Burgerville said it plans to extend the contract’s provisions to all employees, regardless of location.
The contract would codify some wage policies that began in 2019.
Starting wages at the company are currently $14.25 per hour, Burgerville said. Under the contract, the company’s starting wage would remain 25 cents above the minimum wage of Oregon or Washington — whichever is higher — until it reaches $15 an hour.
All restaurants would continue to allow tipping under the contract, which Burgerville said has boosted wages by an average of $2 per hour.
In addition, the company would institute drive-through credit card tipping at the unionized stores within one month of the contract’s ratification.
The contract would also alter the company’s approach to vacation pay, among other benefits changes. It would allow some employees to get paid for vacation days off as they take them, instead of getting a lump payment for vacation time only afterward, on the anniversary of their employment.
For Medina, establishing more stable scheduling was one of the contract’s biggest wins.
Burgerville said it follows Oregon’s predictive scheduling law, which requires that employers give workers their schedules two weeks in advance.
Under the agreement, workers would be able to get a three-month work schedule.
“That will give long-term security to workers to know how much money they’re making, what their hours are going to be, what they have to plan for if they have children,” Medina said.
Hillary Barbour, Burgerville’s director of strategic initiatives, said the company may pilot the new scheduling system at union locations before rolling it out to other stores.
Barbour said agreement on a tentative contract had created a celebratory mood at the company, after three years of negotiations.
“We are very excited to have an agreement that allows us to move forward as a team,” she said. “We are excited to have an agreement that gives us business certainty.”
The contract will extend to May 2023, if ratified by union members and approved by company leadership.
“This is the steppingstone and the building of a union standard,” Medina said.
He strongly urged union members to vote yes.