PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland fine-dining favorites Kann, Berlu and Gado Gado received nods from the James Beard Foundation when it announced the nominees for the 2023 James Beard Awards. But one unexpected Pacific Northwest restaurant — and its union — was also recognized by the foundation.
In 2021, Vancouver-based fast food chain Burgerville became the first fast food union in the nation. Now, the workers union has won James Beard’s Emerging Leadership award.
The James Beard Foundation explained that its Leadership Awards go to candidates that “raise awareness of these timely issues by celebrating the visionaries responsible for creating a healthier, safer, and more equitable, and sustainable food system.”
Burgerville Workers Union has officially worked to create a sustainable food system since signing its union contract with Burgerville in December 2021, but its efforts can be traced back to February 2018 when employees asked customers to boycott the company.
Nearly four years of negotiations later, BVWU reached an agreement with the fast food chain and joined the international labor union Industrial Workers of the World.
According to the union, the agreement came with a new contract for employees that includes benefits such as paid vacation time, paid parental leave and a three-month set schedule.
Now, BVWU represents about 100 Burgerville workers at five locations. However, the union said that its accomplishment belongs to more than just the workers that it represents.
“This award goes to every one of our members, to the single mother’s whom the company is threatening to fire for being sick today, to the workers who went on strike multiple times to force the company to listen to workers, to all people who organize to reign in the inequities of corporate dictates,” BVWU told KOIN 6.
The union also thanked the James Beard Foundation on Twitter, saying that it was honored to win the prestigious award.
BVWU was honored alongside fellow food industry leaders Rowen White of Sierra Seeds, Savonala Horne of Land Loss Prevention Project and Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Find the rest of the winners here.
The Leadership Awards ceremony will be held in Chicago on Sunday, June 4.