The bid by workers from Portland-based Little Big Burger to unionize has failed, with a minority of employees voting in favor of a union.
Of the 109 employees eligible to vote, 29 voted to unionize, while another 41 voted against the move. Twelve of the ballots were challenged.
A 28-year-old associate with the company, who declined to give his full name for fear of being blacklisted by future employers, said the final tally “came as a surprise to everyone.”
“There’s a wide agreement that things needed to change here, and I would venture to say in fast food in general,” he said. “Counteracting that was intense pressure by the company to vote no.”
The Little Big Union, the formal group of employees pushing for a union, has claimed that the company fired workers who "raised concerns to management over the unsafe working conditions and rampant understaffing."
According to the Little Big Union website, employees launched the fight for unionization because they were “tired of poverty wages, a lack of benefits, and ongoing disrespect.” The group’s demands included more routine schedules, higher pay and safer equipment.
Group members said they were inspired by the success of several franchises at Burgerville, another Northwest burger chain. The Burgerville Workers Union made national headlines last year after becoming one of the few federally recognized unions in the fast food industry.
A spokesperson for Little Big Burger’s parent company, Chanticleer Holdings, declined to comment on Tuesday’s election, noting the National Labor Relations Board has not yet certified the result.