Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

The Oregonian

Workers negotiating a union contract with Burgerville are preparing to wage a large-scale strike, even as the regional fast-food chain says it will boost employee pay by $1 an hour.

Members of the Burgerville Workers Union and their supporters plan to hold a rally in downtown Portland on Saturday and lead a march to the chain’s SE Hawthorne Boulevard location — one of five Burgerville restaurants that comprise the workers’ historic, federally recognized union.

Whether the demonstration celebrates a contract or marks the beginning of picket lines will depend on the outcome of a marathon collective bargaining session that ends Friday night, union organizers say.

Regardless of the result, Saturday’s planned demonstration will be the largest in the union’s three-year organizing campaign. It comes as the Vancouver-based company announced this week that it will bump base pay to $13.50 for workers in Oregon and Washington beginning Dec. 30.

“Our employees are the heart of our company, and the vital connection between guests, farmers and ranchers, and the region we love,” Burgerville CEO Jilly Taylor said in a statement Wednesday. “We are committed to investing in them.”

Emmett Schlenz, a union organizer who works at the Hawthorne Burgerville, said the company’s raise falls far short of the proposed wage increases and other perks sought by workers at the bargaining table since negotiations began 16 months ago.

“Corporate is not taking us seriously,” Schlenz said. “Workers are fed up with waiting.”

In April 2018, workers at the chain’s SE 92nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard location made history by becoming the first in decades to organize a union drive at a fast-food establishment in the U.S..

Since then, the company’s Hawthorne location as well as three other shops — in Gladstone, Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood and near the Oregon Convention Center — have also held successful union drives.

Burgerville, owned by Holland Inc., has about 1,500 employees across 41 locations in Oregon and southern Washington.