Burgerville Ratifies America's First Fast-Food Contract

    The collective bargaining agreement is in effect until May 2023.

    Burgerville restaurant.
    The contract oversees five Burgerville locations.

    Burgerville and the Burgerville Workers Union officially ratified a collective bargaining agreement last week, marking the country's first fast-food contract.

    The agreement comes after more than three years of work, strikes, and walkouts from the Burgerville Workers Union. Seventy-five percent of union members voted, of which 92 approved the contract, according to Eater

    The 39-unit chain employs around 800 people in Oregon and Southwest Washington, but the contract oversees five Burgerville locations represented by the union. Under the guidelines, All hourly employees will receive wage increases that are 25 cents per hour more than the highest minimum wage between Oregon and Washington, until the starting wage of either state reaches $15. Burgerville already adopted this policy in 2019 and has so far reached starting wages of $14.25 an hour.

    Tipping, another measure implemented in 2019, is included in the contract, as well. It's resulted in an average increase of more than $2 per hour. The agreement also calls for safeguards to support employee health and well-being, including expanded sick leave, vacation benefits, and paid parental leave.

    The contract is in effect until May 2023.

    “We are pleased to approve the nation’s first fast food union contract and look forward to working with all Burgerville employees to be the best restaurant company to work for in the Pacific Northwest,” Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said in a statement. “Burgerville has always valued employees and invested in their well-being. As the first in the fast food restaurant industry to offer affordable health care to employees in 2006, it’s no surprise to be the first with a union contract. What a great new chapter in our 60-year history.”

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, only 1.2 percent of workers at food services and drinking places were unionized, but efforts have gained a lot more attention recently.

    Earlier this month, a Starbucks store in Buffalo voted to unionize, the first among the chain’s more than 8,000 U.S. corporate locations. The measure passed by a 19-8 vote, with unionized employees hoping for a greater voice on organization policies, health and safety conditions, increases in protection from unfair firings or discipline, seniority rights, leave of absence rights, and benefits and wages. Two other locations held a vote, but one denied the union and another has challenged ballots, so a definitive ruling couldn't be reached. 

    More cafes are looking to hold a vote, including two in Boston, three more in Buffalo, and one in Mesa, Arizona. 

    Additionally, Colectivo Coffee, which has 20 locations spread across Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recently voted to unionize with around 440 employees, making it the U.S.'s largest unionized coffee store. Previously, Buffalo-based Spot Coffee was the largest unionized cafe with around 130 members.