Does Burgerville Care About its Employees, or its Profit Margin?

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

Hope for Labor in a Post-Janus World

Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced its long expected decision in the Janus vs. AFSCME case.  As predicted, the Court aligned with its Koch Industries’ sponsored lapdogs in the Republican Party to undermine public sector employees.  Public employees remain the strongest bastion of the organized U.S. Labor movement, accounting for 49% of all unionized workers in the U.S.

At Jobs With Justice, we see hope in times of great moral crisis, and many in and out of our labor movement will certainly see today’s decision as reason for dismay.

Here are 5 reasons why we are hopeful at this moment for worker organizations:

  1. People like us! Public support for unions is higher than its been in 15 years, the result of young workers entering our low wage economy under huge debt loads, the #MeToo movement, and many other factors.
  2. We’ve joined the rest of world! Union shops are already outlawed in most of the rest of the world.  Including countries we think of as having strong, free, labor unions.
  3. The Red State rebellion! The public school teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona have dramatically changed the stakes- in states that outlaw not just union shops but collective bargaining for public employees.
  4. We’re (getting) ready! The threat of the end of union shops has shifted union culture to focus more on organizing members and less on providing services.
  5. Organizing the Unorganized! Many sectors of the retail industry such as big box stores, restaurants, and fast food chains have long been considered “unorganizable” by traditional labor tactics like NLRB organizing.  But unions who are engaged in grassroots labor struggles and winning, such as the Burgerville Workers Union, are proving that when we fight and follow workers’ leadership, we win.

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*Side note: Several weeks ago on the Portland Jobs With Justice Facebook page we asked our followers where they were finding hope for organized labor in a post-Janus world, here’s what the community said!

Workers’ Rights Board hears disturbing testimony on TriMet’s LIFT paratransit service

At a recent hearing on May 17th of the Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board, hosted by Portland Jobs with Justice and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, over 100 community members heard testimony about TriMet’s LIFT paratransit service. The testimony highlighted a disturbing trend of labor and human rights violations that began when TriMet outsourced the service to First Transit, which is a subdivision of the multinational corporation First Group.

IMG_1118Testimony was heard from drivers and riders who have first hand experience with this service since it has been outsourced to First Transit, care workers whose jobs are impacted by the quality of the LIFT paratransit service, and public transit systems specialists who offered alternatives and potential solutions to some of the issues faced by drivers and riders of TriMet’s LIFT paratransit.

Unlike fixed-route service where riders walk or ride a bike to a bus stop and wait for the bus to show up and take them to another bus stop, Trimet’s LIFT service is comprised of public transit buses that serve primarily the elderly and people with disabilities through non-fixed route bus service. Riders call and make appointments for service. A bus comes directly to their home (or wherever they need to be picked up from), and the driver takes them directly to their place of work, medical appointment, or wherever it is they need to go.  Read More

Welcome to the Portland Jobs With Justice blog!  

Welcome to the Portland Jobs With Justice blog!  

20170930-_J6A0470We’ve started this communication channel to share stories and info about what we’re working on, how we’re helping build a working class movement, and to engage our community in our work.  

As the Executive Director, I’m very excited to share our 2018-2019 Strategic Priorities, adopted by our Executive and Steering Committees. These four priorities paint our path forward for how we will continue to live out our mission in the years to come.  

These are scary times for our labor movement. Yet I know that within us are the elements of a new movement that can win the just society we all envision. As an organizer I’ve been fond of saying that our unions are not vending machines, where you put in a little bit of money and wait for something good to come out (and if its not working right you shake the machine and call the operator!). Our unions and our worker organizations have to be like potlucks: the more effort you put into them, the more creativity you put forward, the better they are for everyone.  

Portland JWJ is a lot like a potluck.  What are you bringing?  

Here are the adopted priorities for Portland JWJ. Please let us know what you think!