PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Portland-based, national donut chain Voodoo Doughnut has responded to the news that, on Sept. 27, employees at its original Old Town location voted to become the federally recognized union Doughnut Workers United.
In a statement sent to KOIN 6 News, Voodoo Doughnut said that although the company is supportive of its employees’ decision to unionize, it is disappointed with how the union has chosen to communicate.
“We’re disappointed that the employees at our Old Town, Portland location chose to have a third party speak on their behalf as we continue to believe working directly together is the best for our employees,” Voodoo Doughnuts said. “However, we respect our employees’ right to organize and will continue to operate in good faith moving forward.”
After more than a year of trying, including a failed attempt to unionize in March of 2021, the Old Town employees successfully formed Doughnut Workers United by a vote of 16-6. The decision, the union says, was prompted by inadequate pay, unaffordable health care and unsafe working conditions at the Voodoo Doughnut location.
Meanwhile, the company has denied these claims, saying that it already provides excellent pay, benefits and a supportive work environment.
“Voodoo Doughnut provides best-in-class compensation and benefits in a supportive and progressive work environment where our employees are encouraged to be themselves, from the lack of a formal uniform to choosing the music that plays in their stores,” Voodoo Doughnut said. “Voodoo always has been and will continue to be a unique place to work that is centered around our people and the product they serve.”
DWU disputed the company’s comments today, saying that the company’s dress code and music policies aren’t indicative of adequate employee benefits.
“It’s true that at Voodoo Doughnut, we are not required to wear work uniforms, and that we do get to choose what music we listen to, to a certain degree, but that does not mean that Voodoo Doughnut provides ‘best-in-class compensation,’ and it certainly is not something unique to this company,” DWU told KOIN 6. “Voodoo Doughnut offers a starting wage that is slightly above minimum wage, and though they do provide health care, it is too expensive for many workers to be able to afford. The price also goes up significantly for those looking for vision and dental care.”
The union went on to say that these benefits are only offered to full-time employees, a caveat that eliminates many of the shop’s workforce from claiming benefits during the tourist off-season.
“Many of the workers at Voodoo Doughnut are only allowed to [work full-time] during certain times of the year,” DWU said. “Now, for instance, in the fall, many workers’ hours will be cut back. Thus: healthcare will no longer be available to them, regardless if they could afford the expensive premiums.”
So far, the union said, it appears that Voodoo Doughnut will not challenge the union vote. If left unchallenged, the union will be officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board later this week. From there, the National Labor Relations Board will establish a timeline for negotiations between Voodoo Doughnuts and DWU, which are expected to begin by December of 2022, employees said.
“We are simply waiting for the NLRB to establish when negotiations will officially begin,” the union said. “Until then, DWU will be structuring our union more thoroughly; sending out surveys to workers to hear out their individual needs and concerns that they would like addressed at the bargaining table; as well as holding shop elections for democratically elected members of the staff to assume leadership positions of the union on the shop floor.”
Although the union sees the vote as a major victory, DWU said that its members are still focused on what’s left to be accomplished.
“We are so excited to have won our election,” DWU said. “Many of us on the shop floor have been working towards this for a while now, and we hope that others who have seen the results feel inspired, themselves, to organize their work places. We still have a lot of work to do before a contract is signed and voted on by the staff, but we’re all very excited to begin that journey together and to fight side-by-side for the best wages, benefits, and safety measures that we can accomplish.