On Monday afternoon, about a dozen Burgerville employees marched down Main Street toward the company’s corporate offices in Vancouver, Washington. They were there to deliver a message to the company: recognize the employee union within 48 hours.
If not, workers will take action that may legally force the company’s hand.
Mark Medina works at the counter of the 92nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard Burgerville in Portland.
He says if the company fails to act, workers plan to file for an official union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday.
“We want to have a dialogue. We want to talk,” Medina said. “We want to sit across from the table and discuss what is rational: the terms of our employment, the conditions of our work.”
The election would likely take place in April and will only be for workers at the 92nd and Powell store. If the workers are successful, the Burgerville Workers Union would make history as the first ever legally recognized fast food union in the nation, according to Medina.
Union demands include a $5 an hour raise across the board for all workers, affordable health care, parental leave and fair scheduling.
Medina has worked at Burgerville for a year and a half and is paid $11.50 an hour, 25 cents more than Portland's minimum wage. He says as Portland has become a more expensive city to live in, every month proves more challenging to get by.
“I’ve used payday loans to pay rent. I know co-workers that are sleeping in their cars,” Medina said. “This is not a livable wage.”
The Burgerville Workers Union first went public in 2016, and has ramped up organizing in recent months. In February, workers from the Convention Center and Southeast 26th and Powell locations walked off the job and staged a three-day strike.
Medina says, despite these efforts, Burgerville has refused to come to the table. “It’s been total silence,” he said.
That silence continued on Monday when Medina and his union colleagues came to deliver their ultimatum. The front doors of the company's corporate office were locked and employees had moved out of view during the demonstration. Medina taped the letter to the front door and eventually left after standing outside for close to half an hour.
In an emailed statement, Beth Brewer, senior vice president of operations at Burgerville, said the company respects the right of every employee to support or not support the organization of a union.
“If there is enough support, we anticipate they will file a petition with the NLRB,” Brewer wrote. “Burgerville will abide by the NLRB’s decision and guidance.”