Employees of the small Pacific Northwest fast-food chain Burgerville made headlines months ago when they unionized, becoming the country’s first recognized fast-food union. (Editor’s note: Burgerville also serves delicious rosemary fries with aioli dipping sauce, should you ever have the pleasure.) But as negotiations continue over raises and other benefits, one issue has become especially thorny: employees’ buttons.
Oregon Live reports Burgerville ownership and its employees disagree about whether workers have the right to wear buttons or pins to work, specifically those that display political messages. The issue came to a head late last month when several workers at a Portland, Oregon Burgerville were sent home when the came to work wearing buttons that read “Abolish ICE” and “No One Is Illegal.” The dismissal also forced the closure of that location’s drive-thru, as there weren’t enough staff to cover it. The next day, management reversed itself, invited workers back to Burgerville, and paid them their back wages.
But the—pardon us—hot-button issue is now a sticking point in negotiations between the employee-led union and ownership.
The company stated it’s had a long-standing unwritten policy against buttons, while a union spokesperson tells Oregon Live: “We see the workplace as a central realm for combating white supremacy and anti-immigrant sentiment.” Burgerville corporate is worried such political statements in the workplace could alienate customers who don’t share the workers’ beliefs.
As of two weeks ago, the chain has temporarily put its anti-button policy on hold as it negotiates with employees and their union. Workers say they’re still coming to work, and still wearing their flair.