The recently started negotiations by the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) for two stores will be the true test of whether Burgerville’s impressive marketing and their philanthropic donations are based on deeply held beliefs, or rather the desire for profit and tax avoidance.  

My family and thousands of other JwJ supporters are committed to maintaining the worker-called boycott of Burgerville until they reach a fair contract with their workers. BVWU (organized by the Industrial Workers of the World) was endorsed overwhelmingly by the workers at the Southeast 92nd & Powell and the Gladstone locations, in spite of a relentless union-busting campaign waged by Management.

My daughter and I were at a peaceful BVWU picket line a year ago during the Rose Parade. We saw the company’s paid union-busters fill buckets with horse manure… and proceed to dump them in the middle of the picket line. In front of the restaurant! At lunch time. I know Burgerville workers who have been unfairly fired for trivial offenses, like adding nuts to some ice cream …when nuts are a topping provided for free to customers.

We all appreciate it when corporations contribute to important programs in the community. However,let’s be clear that businesses get substantial tax deductions for those philanthropic efforts.  I absolutely support community swimming pools and public schools, but I hope for the day we can fully fund those with tax dollars rather than relying on corporate whims.  

Some people, including Elizabeth Hovde in a recent anti-union trash piece published in The Oregonian, demean our entire community by saying that young workers are simply looking to retire. In fact, the young workers I know demand authenticity and have a clear sense of when they are being misled. They want work that doesn’t market itself great community service when it’s really just making lots of money for the owners.

Young workers support sustainable business practices that don’t do further harm to the future of our planet. But they also wonder about how they can sustain themselves when we know fast food jobs pay so little and when our society sends them, under the burden of massive student debt, into a job market full of low-wage and “gig” employment.  BVWU members, who take the orders and cook the food, are the ones holding Burgerville accountable to their brand image.  Burgerville workers see the company’s marketing and its philanthropic donations…  and are left to wonder why they have to struggle to make ends meet?   

Could that be a reason the elections have gone so well for the workers?  Until these workers have a fair contract, I’m proud to join the Burgerville boycott.

If you support the workers at Burgerville too, then please join us for a solidarity social with BVWU on the evening of Tuesday August 14th. Click Here for more info about that event.

-Will Layng, Executive Director, Portland Jobs With Justice

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