Pay Rate Cuts Leads to Backlash At Trillium Brewing

Trillium’s newly opened brewery and restaurant complex in Fort Point

It’s the perfect storm, in these polarized times, a craft beer darling being accused of unfair labor practices in social media…

Here’s the deal…

Several complaints by former Trillium  employees that were recently  posted j on a Beer Advocate message board, caught fire in the craft beer community over the Thanksgiving holiday eventually going bigtime via the Boston Globe.

The primary issue revolved around the fact that Trillium asked all of its long-term tip-based staff to reapply for their positions. And in doing so accept a pay reduction from $8 an hour to $5 which is the more recent company standard instituted in 2016.

As Good Beer Hunting astutely explains… “In Trillium’s home state of Massachusetts, the minimum wage is $11, but tipped employees, of which Trillium considers its staff, must only make a base pay of at least $3.75.”

Trouble brewing?

But the state law also cites that the “the employee must receive at least the $11.00 minimum wage when actual tips and wages are combined” and if combined wages and tips to not at least equal the regular minimum wage, “the employer must pay the employee the difference.”

The Globe, who spoke with Trillium’s co-founder JC Tetreault reported that the company saw the move as a” course correction” and that the pay cuts only effected “a handful of longtime retail employees who had been hired at a previous standard rate of $8.”

And to be fair…one ex-employee post on BeerAdvocate seems to support trillium’s pay reductions…

“Let me clear something up. The retail staff makes well over minimum wage regardless of whether the hourly is 8 or 5. In fact, they might be the highest paid staff per hour (with tips) in the entire place. Some people have contacted me freaking out because they think they’ll lose money by switching to a no tip system. Do not think that they are running some slave labor operation, that is absolutely not the case.”

But there’s little doubt that the social media uproar in an uber-liberal city like Boston over the Thanksgiving holiday has at least for now tainted the Trillium brand for some.

And the potential bad-vibes accrued from this uproar comes at a time of unprecedented expansion for the brewery which now includes summer and winter beer gardens, a newly opened  brewery and restaurant complex in Fort Point, and a farm brewery planned in Connecticut.

All image credits: Trillium Brewing

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