Oregon Public Broadcasting | By Lillian Karabaic/OPB
In just the past month, strippers, vegan donut makers and thrift shop workers have all won union elections in Oregon.
In a year of notable national union activity — from the WGA and SAF-AFTRA strikes shutting down Hollywood to the president joining the UAW picket line in Detroit — what’s happening here in Oregon is a little different: it’s driven by independent unions. Rather than join AFL-CIO, SEIU or other big unions, some Oregon workers are taking a “grow your own” approach to unionizing.
Local chain Burgerville’s independent union, Burgerville Workers Union, won federal recognition in 2018 and signed its first contract in 2021. Seeing Burgerville’s success in organizing without the resources of a bigger union inspired workers at Voodoo Doughnut.
Samantha Medina was one of the original union organizers at the donut shop in Portland’s Old Town in 2020. Medina said an independent union was a necessity in a sector largely seen as “un-organizable” by the big unions.