A fast-food workers’ union is demanding that employees of a Pacific Northwest-based burger chain be allowed to wear pins with phrases such as “Abolish ICE” and “No one is illegal.”
The workers’ union, the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU), wrote a Facebook post Sunday calling Burgerville’s decision to ban employees from wearing political buttons “racist” and urged the fast-food chain to work with the union to allow employees to sport politically-charged buttons while working on their shifts.
The fast-food chain initially did not have a formal written policy in place banning the buttons, leading workers to wear pins with phrases such as “No one is illegal” and “Abolish ICE.”
“Some of our employees have been wearing buttons expressing their political views at work. While Burgerville had a long-standing verbal policy prohibiting the wearing of personal buttons, we did not have a written policy about this,” the company told Fox News.
Supervisors at Burgerville’s Portland location noticed the trend, and sent ten workers home after they refused to remove the pins that violated company policy for being “controversial.”
The union called Burgerville’s policy “white supremacist” for only allowing political buttons expressing views about wages and working conditions, saying it singles out people who support Black Lives Matter and illegal immigration.
The company allowed the employees to return to work the next day, gave them back pay, and allowed them to wear their buttons after the union’s statement.
But the burger chain decided to go in a different direction with its button policy after soliciting feedback from its customers.
Burgerville’s human resources director Liz Graham said the customers provided feedback saying they did not like seeing the pins, and the company was looking for a better way to institute an official “button-free policy.”
“Guests provided feedback that they didn’t want to see personal and political messages while they ate,” Graham told the Oregonian. “Additionally, some employees expressed that the content of the buttons was drawing unwanted attention that made them uncomfortable.”
The company then announced it would be instituting an official, written policy banning the buttons to create an “inclusive” environment for its customers.
“The company is adopting one that represents our long-standing commitment to creating a universally welcoming and inclusive environment for our customers and employees alike,” the burger chain said in a statement.
“We are instituting an updated uniform policy, and buttons and other messaging – both political and personal – will not be allowed. It is a policy that is common in public-facing businesses and is in alignment with our mission to Serve With Love,” the statement continued.
The policy is expected to go into effect September 13.