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America's first fast-food union formed
Workers at a Burgerville location in Portland, Oregon, have officially unionized. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

America's first fast-food union formed

After two years of walk-outs, protests and a boycott of their employer, workers at a Burgerville restaurant in Portland, Oregon, have formed a union.

The union's leader, Mark Medina, said in a statement, "What happened here is historic...Burgerville workers are at the forefront of their own movement, proving to everyone that we can change our lives and our world for the better."

Another spokesman for the union, Emmett Schlenz, said "The reason the union started is because workers frequently experience poverty and homelessness." Schlenz says that most of Burgerville's employees earn a little over the minimum wage of $11.25 in Portland.

The company, which has 42 locations in Oregon and Washington, seems to have embraced the idea according to their senior vice president of operations, Beth Brewer, who said in a statement: "We will navigate this new working relationship together in a positive, productive way. We are ready to support the nation's first unionized fast-food store."

Burgerville also took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper, and wrote on social media, "This will be great: On Monday, one of our locations voted to become the first fast-food union in the country. This is new territory for us at Burgerville, but we're used to that. We've never been afraid of going first."

In recent years, there has been a movement pressing for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast food workers, and the National Labor Relations Board sought to ease the way for laborers in the sector to unionize in 2015.

But the push comes amid times when fast food companies are replacing human workers with self-service kiosks and even robotic burger-flippers. In the meantime, other Burgerville locations are expected to join the newly-founded Burgerville Workers Union, as the company announced in a press release that a vote is expected at a second location on May 12 and 13.


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