After three years, several strikes and dozens of bargaining sessions, Vancouver fast food chain Burgerville has reached a tentative agreement with the Burgerville Workers Union. It is the first such employment contract in the country’s fast food industry, the two parties said.
“What a great way to celebrate our 60th anniversary,” Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said in a written statement. “I hope that the agreement will be ratified quickly and that a contract will be signed before the end of the year.”
Union organizer Mark Medina said he expects members to ratify the deal by mid-December. Business leaders must also approve it.
The Burgerville Workers’ Union was federally recognized in 2018. It now represents workers at five of the company’s 40 locations in Oregon and southwest Washington.
After approval, Burgerville said it plans to extend the terms of the contract to all employees, regardless of location.
The contract would codify some wage policies that began in 2019.
Starting wages at the company are currently $14.25 an hour, Burgerville said. Under the contract, the company’s starting wage would remain 25 cents above the Oregon or Washington minimum wage — whichever is higher — until it reaches $15 an hour.
All restaurants would continue to allow tipping under the contract, which Burgerville said increased wages by $2 an hour on average.
Additionally, the company would institute credit card tipping while driving at unionized stores within a month of contract ratification.
The contract would also change the company’s approach to vacation pay, among other benefits changes. This would allow some employees to be paid for vacation days as they take them, instead of receiving a lump sum payment for vacation only after, on the anniversary of their employment.
For Medina, establishing a more stable schedule was one of the biggest contract wins.
Burgerville said it follows Oregon’s predictive scheduling law, which requires employers to give workers their schedules two weeks in advance.
Under the agreement, workers could benefit from a three-month work schedule.
“It will give workers long-term security to know how much money they earn, what their hours will be, what they should plan for if they have children,” Medina said.
Hillary Barbour, Burgerville’s director of strategic initiatives, said the company could pilot the new scheduling system at unionized locations before rolling it out to other stores.
Barbour said an agreement on a provisional contract had created a celebratory mood in the company, after three years of negotiations.
“We are very happy to have an agreement that allows us to move forward as a team,” she said. “We are delighted to have an agreement that gives us commercial certainty.”
The contract will run until May 2023, if ratified by union members and approved by company management.
“It’s the stepping stone and building a union standard,” Medina said.
He strongly urged union members to vote yes.