PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Eleven employees of a Voodoo Doughnut location in Portland said they went on strike after facing heat exhaustion during the record-breaking heatwave last weekend. Seven of them now say they were fired.
Max Fleisher told KOIN 6 News he was fired from Voodoo Doughnut on Thursday. He said the extreme heat created an unsafe work environment, and provided pictures of thermometers from inside the Old Town location that allegedly showed temperatures reaching between 95 and 96 degrees F.
“The very first second you stepped up there, you know, you just started sweating. That was probably the first sign that it was a bad thing,” he said. “Then as the day went on you would slowly get more and more exhausted.”
He said he and other co-workers brought up concerns about the heat to management. But when nothing changed even during the higher temperatures last Sunday, Fleisher said he and the others went on strike.
“It’s super frustrating. We know that it’s a protected action. It was unsafe in the store,” Fleisher said. “Like I said, people were getting hives, people were getting nose bleeds, we were very concerned about the heat.”
Doughnut Workers United unsuccessfully attempted to unionize staff at the location earlier this year.
In a statement, Voodoo Doughnuts said: “Employee and customer safety is our highest priority; if we felt either were at risk during this time, we would have adjusted operating hours and otherwise made sure everyone was safe.”
Management said they also took measures to address the warmer-than-normal conditions, including providing employees extended or additional breaks, and shifting production to early morning and late evening hours.
Fleisher and the others feel they’ve been retaliated against for going on strike and have since filed complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Aaron Corvin, a spokesperson for Oregon OSHA, said the workers do have rights.
“Number one, you have a right to a safe and healthy workplace and, two, your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you,” Corvin said.
Voodoo Doughnut has previously been featured by media outlets including Food Network, Travel Channel and Insider, among others. The shops currently have locations in Oregon, Colorado and Texas, as well as the Universal CityWalk and Universal Studios Orlando in California and Florida, respectively.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.