Burgerville, Union Near Agreement During Strike Over Covid-19 Conditions

By Troy Brynelson (OPB)
July 13, 2020 9:28 p.m.

Plans to reopen a Burgerville restaurant in Northeast Portland stalled Monday as workers strike over conditions related to the novel coronavirus, but sides appear to be nearing an agreement.

The location, at Northeast 82nd Avenue and Glisan Street, has been closed since July 7, when an employee tested positive for COVID-19


. The store had planned to reopen Friday, but workers decided to strike over health and safety conditions.

Related: Northeast Portland Burgerville Workers Strike After COVID-19 Infection

In a statement Monday, the Burgerville Workers Union said it demanded the Vancouver-based fast-food chain screen workers for COVID-19 before returning to work, or give paid leave to isolate. Otherwise, the union said, the company risks bringing staff back who may be infected.


“The consequences for failing to take necessary precautions could be deadly,” union representatives wrote.

Burgerville has offered to pay for employees’ tests and told employees where they can get tested, but a spokesperson said they cannot explicitly force the employees to get tested.

“We all want the same thing here,” said Hillary Barbour, a spokesperson. “Except we can’t make you go get the test.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers can in fact require COVID-19 testing. The Americans With Disabilities Act allows medical testing as long as the tests are “job related and consistent with business necessity.”

Barbour pointed out that the Multnomah County Health Department recommended employers don’t screen to preserve testing supplies.

“At this time, we do not endorse requiring proof of negative COVID-19 test results as a condition of reopening or returning to work following illness because testing capacity remains limited,” the department wrote in a memo Friday.

On Friday, Burgerville told OPB the company gave paid leave for isolation to workers who shared a shift with the infected worker at any point in a two-week window.

Union representatives signaled they could be open to returning to work Tuesday since it will be nearly two weeks since the infected worker’s last shift. Barbour, the spokesperson, said the company hopes to reopen Tuesday.