The Heat Rises at Burgerville “Boycott”


Clarion photo Allie Montgomery

Photograph of the flyer handed out at the Burgerville Boycott demonstration.

By Ally Grimaldi and Allie Montgomery, Editor-in-Chief and Sports Editor

There was some beef outside of Burgerville today, and we’re not talking about the burgers. Be prepared: this is a juicy one.

On April 26, the Burgerville Workers Union partnered with the Solidarity Action Committee in a five-person demonstration of protest against Burgerville’s unresponsiveness to their demands of a better work environment. “It’s been a year now and Burgerville has still refused to sit down with the union and negotiate wage changes,” said Kristen Lang of the Solidarity Action Committee.

Demonstrators didn’t just stick to the streets; students were encouraged to participate in the “Burgerville Boycott” during lunchtime. Students were offered free pizza in exchange for an agreement to skip their regular burger and fries.

“We are handing out free pizza to Cleveland students because we know that Cleveland students bring in a lot of money to Burgerville,” said Lang, who was standing by the Bus 10 TriMet stop just off Burgerville’s property, where the pizza was given out. “The lunch rush is a pretty stressful time to work at Burgerville,” said Lang. “We’re trying to mitigate that.”

Said Emmaly Light, Cleveland 2014 graduate and Burgerville employee of 20 months, the lunch rush is “extremely stressful because we don’t have enough people to be able to handle it properly.”

Cleveland students commented that the restaurant was unusually slow during lunch today, spare the police presence that lingered both inside and outside of the establishment. “I would say either a manager or a corporate member called [the police]. I believe that they were there to try to intimidate us and keep things from getting out of control (for corporate),” said Light.

“I totally understand the reason [for the protest],” said Sydney Toops, Cleveland junior and boycott participant. “Give the workers a break.” Toops commented that the environment was “super supportive,” and that “everyone was happy” to get free food.

The Burgerville Workers Union publicly announced their existence exactly one year ago today. They had hopes of bettering the working environment at Burgerville through a “living wage,” shorter hours, and more respect for employees, among other things. The mission of the Burgerville Workers Union is listed on their website: “Burgerville workers have formed a union to win respect; we want to see Burgerville do right by us, agree to a $5.00/hour raise, and negotiate with our union.”

The union also handed out flyers in celebration of their one year anniversary. “For the last year,” stated the flyers, “workers at Burgerville have been fighting with their union for higher wages, better benefits, and a voice on the job! Burgerville has refused to negotiate and workers are continuing to fight!” Students were also encouraged to celebrate with union members for an 8 o’clock event that will be held on Saturday, April 29 at Cider Riot. Demonstrators hope to see a big turnout.

Despite all efforts made during the past year, demonstrators voiced that Burgerville has not moved forward with many of the union’s demands. “For our store personally–I can’t really speak for other stores–one of the only improvements that’s happened is [the addition of] floor mats,” said Light. “The floor is concrete with just a small layer of tile on top of that, so it’s really, really hard on our feet and our backs, standing for hours and hours a day. Even for someone who is young and semi-fit, it’s still extremely difficult.”

“Burgerville recognizes employees’ right to organize and respects each employee’s right to decide for herself or himself about whether to have a union,” said Burgerville’s Chief Cultural Officer, Jack Graves. Burgerville representatives denied requests to comment further on the topic.

“We’ve been trying for a whole year and barely any progress has been made at all,” said Light. “We are trying to get the message that things need to be improved and that action needs to start being taken.”