Another regional restaurant chain is making headlines for employee attempts to unionize: W. Va.-based Tudor’s Biscuit World, with approximately 90 locations, is pushing back on a group of employees from one store in Elkview, W. Va. that is demanding to be recognized as a union.
The group of restaurant workers is working with United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 (a regional union representing retail, food, healthcare and food processing workers) and has just filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, according to local news reports.
According to UFCW, a majority of the restaurant’s workers — about 25 people — have signed union authorization cards. When representatives from the group of workers tried to meet with Tudor's management in Sissonville, W. Va., UFCW claims that management called the police on the workers for trespassing. The would-be union is demanding higher wages, better working conditions, and more stringent COVID-19 safety procedures.
“We are being treated like dirt, like expendable work machines,” Cynthia Nicholson, a Tudor’s employee and Local 400 member said in a press release. “When I returned to work after taking time off for medical leave, they cut my pay from $9.75 to $9.00/hour. They promise you a raise and you never see it. When they transfer you to a different location, they say they’ll compensate you for the travel and then they don’t.”
Workers also told UFCW that they have been denied bathroom breaks and COVID-19 safety procedures were not put in place if an outbreak occurred.
Corporate representatives for Tudor's did not respond to requests for comment, but the company sent a statement to a W. Va. CBS news syndicate:
“We provide comparable benefits and wages to other similar food establishments,” Greg Atkinson, vice president of Tudor's said in the statement. “We do not believe our employees will see any benefit from being represented by a union. We respect our employees and their rights under federal labor law and they are entitled to a secret ballot election. We will ensure their rights are protected.”
In a previous interview with local newspaper the Herald Dispatch, Atkinson confirmed that the company’s hourly pay does start at $9 per hour, which is $1.75 above minimum wage but well below the average hourly wages for restaurant and grocery retail workers, which hit $15 over the summer. At the time, Atkinson said that the company could begin to adjust average hourly pay based on skill and experience.
The news from Tudor's Biscuit World employees came out on the heels of a unionization tug of war between Starbucks corporate and company baristas in Buffalo, N.Y., who will be voting on whether or not to unionize next week. Starbucks directly asked its employees to vote no on the organization efforts, and would-be union leaders claim that the company has engaged in union-busting tactics.
Many union organization attempts in food retail have failed over the years. According to 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the foodservice industry is the least unionized, with only 1.2% of employees represented by unions. Comparatively, more than one-third of educators are represented by unions.
Most recently, Washington-based Burgerville became one of the first quick-service restaurant chains to negotiate a union contract, which includes pay raises up to $15 an hour, expanded sick and parental leave and PTO.
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