The conditions were ripe: A progressive city with people partial to unionized workers. A metro area where wages hadn’t kept pace with meteoric cost-of-living increases.
Ultimately, the union’s efforts coalesced around Burgerville.
The Vancouver-based chain, which employs 1,500, has deep ties in the region. Its parent company, The Holland Inc., began as a creamery founded by Dutch immigrants in 1926. The first Burgerville opened on Mill Plain Boulevard in 1961.
Over the years, the company has cultivated an image aligned with the region’s values. It recycles cooking oil into biodiesel and purchases wind energy credits equivalent to the power used in its corporate offices and restaurants. It sources food from local farms and dishes seasonal items such as asparagus spears and chocolate hazelnut milkshakes.
The Burgerville credo: “Serve with love.”
But some of those paid an average hourly wage of $11.70 to sling Tillamook cheeseburgers or to wipe down the plush booths and red barstools weren’t feeling it.
“Those values were not reflected in workers’ paychecks,” Medina said.
ONE SERVING OF NEGOTIATIONS, PLEASE
After months of quiet planning, the Burgerville Workers Union officially launched in April 2016.
Emmett Schlenz, a union spokesman, said six of the company’s 42 locations now have publicly active unions. They’ve held picket lines and led walkouts. A Burgerville boycott campaign has garnered the backing of multiple labor unions as well as some progressive civic leaders and elected officials.