As Burgerville union employees contemplate a potential strike, the company announced Wednesday that it will be offering its employees a $1 per hour raise. Its employee union said that’s an effort to undermine workers’ organizing.
The Vancouver-based company issued a news release stating that it took out a $3 million loan to raise employee wages.
The $1 hourly raise will begin in December and base pay for workers will be $13.50 per hour in both Oregon and Washington.
Restaurant managers will also be getting a raise in December, something Burgerville said has been delayed for a number of years due to IT costs from a cyber attack last year.
“While the 2018 cyberattack resulted in some significant and unplanned expenditures for our company, I am pleased that this year, our focus is back to our critical human infrastructure: our employees,” said Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor.
“Our employees are the heart of our company, and the vital connection between guests, farmers and ranchers, and the region we love. We are committed to investing in them.”
In a press release, the company said this year it also added the option for customers to be able to tip workers on credit card receipts and increased employee holiday pay.
The Burgerville Workers Union said in a press release Wednesday that this is not a raise, but a “marketing ploy.”
The union has asked for $15 an hour base pay.
“Today’s proposal merely amounts to offering the state-mandated minimum wage increase six months early,” the Burgerville Workers Union said in a news release. “After July 1, 2020, starting wages at Burgerville will revert to only $0.25 above minimum wage, effectively wiping out any significant pay raise.”
Mark Medina, lead negotiator for the Burgerville Workers Union, said of the company’s announcement: “It’s explicitly aimed to disincentivize union membership.”
He also said Burgerville announced the decision without talking with the union first, and that the announcement makes no mention of the union’s and employees' work.
“It erases workers from the history of why they actually did any of this,” Medina said. “The only reason they gave in on tips, the only reason they did paid holidays, the only reason they’re doing this wage increase is because we forced them to come to the table … They’re trying to find a way to spin things positively.”
Medina said on the subject of wages, the union and the company are still “miles apart.”
“But this is in a sense the most substantial offer they have given comparatively to their almost non-offers of the past of $0.13 and $0.20 annually,” he said. “This is the best of all of them, but still far too low.”
Burgerville employees are preparing to strike if a meaningful contract agreement is not reached, according to the union.
Medina said the union’s strike committee is meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the company’s offer.
“We want to make it clear that the company will either sign a good union contract this week, by the deadline of midnight, Oct. 18, or they can sign a contract after the escalation, in a far worse situation, a month later,” Medina said.
“They think they can weather the storm, but they’re not going to weather the storm,” he said. “It’s not just a strike but following escalation and a hard boycott coming.”