Portland, OR – Burgerville has reversed their policy banning political pins, because their employees refused to follow it.
A group of Burgerville employees who violated the policy by wearing buttons at work that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “No one is illegal,” and “Abolish ICE” alleged that the policy was a form of “white supremacy.”
Employees who were previously sent home due to the policy are now receiving back pay.
A total of 10 employees at the Burgerville restaurant at 82nd Avenue and Northeast Glisan Street were sent home from work on Aug. 22, after they refused to remove their buttons while they were working, the Burgerville Workers Union said in a Facebook post.
The employees made the decision to wear their anti-ICE paraphernalia in the wake of the company’s announcement the day prior, which prohibited workers from wearing “political” buttons in the workplace.
“Corporate explicitly singled out Black Lives Matter and No One Is Illegal buttons as ‘too controversial’ to be worn at work,” the union said. “Burgerville’s new policy is, simply put, white supremacist. When bosses tell workers they are not allowed to support Black Lives Matter or to stand with undocumented immigrants, they are siding with white supremacy.”
The workers union said that the company employs “black and undocumented workers,” and alleged that the policy essentially told such workers that “their lives and safety are too ‘political’ for the company.”
“A total of ten workers were either sent home or not allowed to work yesterday because of their refusal to comply with this white supremacist policy,” the union added.
Later the same day, the union proudly announced that the company had “officially revoked the new button policy” and that the workers who refused to comply would receive back pay for their day of missed work.
“Workers are also finally allowed to include their gender pronouns on their name tags!” the union added.
The group hailed their coworkers’ defiance as being “the only reason they changed this policy,” and said the outcome was a “huge victory.”
Then, the union demanded more.
“WE DEMAND a formal apology to the crew at Montavilla for forcing them to decide between their jobs and supporting the fight against white supremacy and WE DEMAND that the button policy support of freedom of expression and explicitly be against white supremacy,” the post read.
The union also called on the company to denounce “prisons and detention centers” as being a form of “white supremacy,” and declared that such facilities “must be abolished for our communities to be free.”
The company has expressed concern that displaying political items in the workplace could lead to customers to believe that employees’ views or opinions are also held by the larger corporation.
"Guests provided feedback that they didn't want to see personal and political messages while they ate," Burgerville Director of Human Resources Liz Graham told The Oregonian. "Additionally, some employees expressed that the content of the buttons was drawing unwanted attention that made them uncomfortable."
The company said it ultimately decided to suspend the button policy until it can be further developed.
"We're still here. We're still standing," employee Drew Edmonds told The Oregonian. "We're still wearing our buttons."