In a major win for the labor rights, workers at a United States fast-food chain, Burgerville, in Portland, Oregon, have overwhelmingly voted for a federally-recognized union, making it the first fast food union in the country to do so.
"Our struggle is the struggle of all workers, everywhere fighting for a better world. No worker is isolated, because we form part of a working class that together can and will do anything. Workers have all the power, and we demonstrated that, and continue to, with this union victory and our march forward," the Burgerville Workers Union told teleSUR in a statement Wednesday.
The historic win comes after two years, of Portland Burgerville Workers Union campaigning efforts, which peaked in February when the workers called for a boycott of the fast-food chain.
"Today workers at 92nd and Powell overwhelmingly voted yes, making the Burgerville Workers Union the only formally recognized fast food union in the country," the Burgerville Workers Union, said on its Facebook's page after the vote Monday.
"For a long time, people have dismissed fast food as unorganizable, saying that turnover is too high, or the workers are too spread out. Today Burgerville workers proved them wrong."
The food chain's workers at the Southeast Portland food joint, voted 18-4, favoring the move to secure their labor rights, in which three workers abstained. The union is supported by the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW, a Chicago-based international labor union, and the results of the vote were overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, NLRB.
The measure would allow the workers to have a say in the food chain's decisions pertaining to them, as Burgerville is now legally required to negotiate with the store's workers, who have been pushing for a wage increase, affordable health care, and other benefits.
"We got here because of the strike, union benefits, pickets, and marches on the boss," the union emphasized on its Facebook page. "The fight isn’t over, of course. We still need to bargain a fair contract with Burgerville, and until then the boycott still stands. And we need to remember what got us to this point: workers taking action for themselves, standing up against poverty wages and horrible conditions."
Mark Medina, a store employee, and union organizer told The Oregonian Monday. "A lot of us are poor, hungry and even homeless; we hope this will be the beginning of the end to poverty wages."
The election campaign ran independently by the workers, also comes at a time when there is a nationwide push to implement the 'Fight for 15' campaign, to raise the minimum wage to US$15/ hour.
Some of the demands listed by Burgerville Union on its website include, "a $5 raise for all hourly Burgerville workers, affordable, quality healthcare, a safe and healthy workplace, a supportive, sustainable workplace including paid maternity/paternity leave," among others.
Currently, the minimum wage at the food joint stands at US$11.25.
The Burgerville Workers Union emphasized its solidarity with millions of other workers in the industry working under stressful conditions for meager pay.
"In this moment of victory we want to celebrate, yes, but we also want to turn our attention to the 4.5 million other fast-food workers in the United States. We want to speak to everyone else who works for poverty wages, who are constantly disrespected on the job, who are told they aren’t educated enough, aren’t experienced enough, aren’t good enough for a decent life," the statement added.
Beth Brewer, a Burgerville senior VP of operations, said the company supports the workers' decision.
"We are proud of our relationship with our co-workers, and we will continue to provide a fair, positive work environment for all," she said in a statement. "We are ready to support the nation's first unionized fast-food store," she added.
Last week, the workers at another location also filed a request for an election with the NLRB, according to Willamette Week.
Burgerville has about 1,500 employees in Oregon and southern Washington state.