After years of employee requests, Burgerville has adopted a new point-of-sale system that allows customers to tip.
"Our goal is clear," reads a press release from Burgerville sent Tuesday afternoon. "If a Burgerville employee is providing great service, we want to make it simple for guests to tip if they choose."
According to the release, 13 of the fast food chain's 41 restaurants now allow customers to add a tip to their purchase. The company says all stores will be set up with this system by the end of September.
The press release, however, omits the fact that its union has requested a tipping system for years. Members of the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) say that in their original contract negation sessions with Burgerville leadership in early 2018 the company firmly rejected the union's ask for tips.
It took a year of bargaining for Burgerville to concede to the union's tipping petition.
"But they make it sound like some voluntary decision," says Mark Medina, who works at Burgerville's SE 92nd and Powell store.
BVWU remains hesitant to applaud their employers for this decision—especially since it doesn't accompany any substantive wage increases.
"Tips are great, but tips are not a reliable income," says Medina. "Tips mean the customer is subsidizing our paychecks, and the company doesn't have to lose any money by giving us living wages."
Burgerville hasn't granted its employees any wage increases (aside from those mandated by the state) since it began bargaining with BWVU. The union's requested a $2.50 wage increase for new hires and a $5 increase for employees who've been on staff for more than ten years. Burgerville won't approve an increase above 13 cents. (Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reflected these wage increases.) Medina says two of his coworkers couldn't pay rent this month because of these stagnant paychecks, and are facing eviction.
Over the past few weeks, BWVU has held several strikes to protest Burgerville's refusal to increase wages, an issue that's allegedly slowed union bargaining meetings to a standstill.
The latest bargaining meeting between Burgerville and BVWU was scheduled for this morning. But, according to its press release, Burgerville won't be showing up today.
Burgerville blames this on BVWU's strikes, claiming that a strike allegedly scheduled for this morning would have forced several general managers to miss the meeting in order to cover the shifts of striking workers.
"There's zero truth to that," says Medina.
First of all, Medina says, there's no BVWU strike planned for today. What's more, Medina adds, Burgerville has attended many bargaining sessions without any general managers present.
"It's a very well-concocted piece of corporate messaging," says Medina. "But we'd appreciate it if they acted like adults at this point. Another month with them not budging on our requests is another month with their workers dipping further into poverty."
Medina says the union plans on filing an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against Burgerville for skipping out on planned bargaining sessions.
"We hope the company is listening to the needs of its workers," he says. "Not just using our employment issues as a marketing tool."