UPDATE (Monday, Oct. 28 at 1:15 p.m. PT) — Unionized Burgerville employees have called off their strike. They say that follows the fast food chain signaling plans to improve workers' compensation.
Workers at four of the region's five unionized Burgerville locations had walked off the job Oct. 23 after wage negotiations with the company collapsed.
Emmett Schlenz, a spokesperson for the Burgerville Workers Union, said the company had previously insisted that its offer to increase workers' wages by one dollar per hour was the "last and final" proposal. But at a meeting Friday, Schlenz said the company signaled it would be open to more substantial changes, leading the union to instruct members to return to their shifts on Sunday.
In a statement, the company disagreed with the union's characterization of the meeting, and emphasized that Burgerville had "clearly communicated" that the recently announced wage increase was the company’s "last, best and final offer." But the company says it is open to discussing "the criteria by which employees move up the pay scale."
As the union was preparing to strike earlier this month, Burgerville announced it had taken out a $3 million loan in order to start offering all employees a $1 per hour raise, which would take effect in December. Base pay for workers would then be $13.50 per hour in Oregon and Washington.
Burgerville also said it would increase the top end of the wage scale by $3 per hour, starting in 2020. The future salary ranges would now range from $13.50-$16.18 in both Washington and Oregon.
The union called the move a “marketing ploy,” and said it only amounted to the company “offering the state-mandated minimum wage increase six months early.”
Starting July 1, 2020, minimum wage in the Portland metro area will be $13.25. The minimum wage in Washington will increase from $12.00 to $13.50 in January.
According to Schlenz, the union wants to push for starting wages one dollar above minimum wage, along with a more consistent policy for raises, which he says are currently left “to the whims of management.”
Contract negotiations between the Burgerville Workers Union and the company are scheduled to resume in a few weeks. Schlenz says a meeting is scheduled for Nov. 5.