Anchor Gets Workers Union
by Steve K. McKnight
This past month Anchor Brewing officially unionized. In doing so, it joins a relatively
short list of breweries with union members, including Busch, Budweiser, Miller, and
Based in San Francisco, and often considered America’s first craft brewery, Anchor
was purchased by Tokyo-based Sapporo Holdings in 2017.
Under Sapporo’s “corporatization,” Anchor employees have reported unlivable
wages, reduced benefits, and fear that their families — as well as production of their
beloved Anchor Steam beer — will be priced out of San Francisco.
As a union, Anchor begins the fight for better quality of life for its employees. But its
organizers’ cries for higher wages, better benefits, and more control echo beyond
Anchor’s walls. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, craft brewery workers’
wages declined by 25 percent from 2006 to 2016. With 7,000 breweries in the U.S.
and counting, that’s a lot of slashed paychecks.
Anchor’s next moves could set a crucial example for a changing industry. Where
many breweries that “sell out” to large brewing corporations claim doing so improves
their products as well as the lives of their employees, Anchor staffers say the
opposite was true.
Last year, Sapporo reported a 4.4 billion yen ($39.8 million) “impairment loss” on the
Anchor acquisition. As a result, the company reduced wages and contributions to
employee healthcare plans.The average workers’ salary for those with at least five
years of service dropped to $18.35 an hour, a wage that adds up to $36,700 a year.
Part-time workers earn $16.50 an hour and are limited to 29-hour work weeks. This
prevents them from being eligible for health benefits. It’s also considered below a
living wage in San Francisco.
According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, the total cost of
living in San Francisco is 62.6 percent higher than the U.S. average, and rental rates
are the highest in the country. Median monthly rent costs $4,650 for a two-bedroom
apartment. As a result, employees are taking on as many as three jobs outside the
brewery and are moving out of San Francisco to Bay Area suburbs, stretching their
pay checks and commute
late March 2019, San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton wrote a letter to
Sapporo USA and Anchor Brewing COO Greg Newbrough on behalf of Anchor
workers. It announced employees’ intention to form a labor union affiliated with the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents Bay Area
warehouse workers .Management was not agreeable and continued running a
strong anti-union campaign.
Unionizing can sometimes be a political power struggle between workers and upper
management. Anchor workers partnered their union with the ILWU through the San
Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, of which several Anchor
union organizers are members.
It all came to a head when Anchor employees voted in favor of unionizing on March
13, 2019 celebrating a 31-t0-16 victory. The brewery is now a unit of ILWU Local 6. A
second election on March 15, 2019 determined that Anchor’s satellite location,
Anchor Public Taps, will also unionize. It emerged victorious with a 6-to-2 vote with
one challenge. The National Labor Relations Board then certified all the votes.
According to the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), union workers earn 20
percent more income than non-union workers. Union members are more likely to see
regular pay raises and have pensions, and children of union workers will earn an
average of 16 percent more than their parents.
As the beer industry continues to expand, and more breweries merge or sell to
survive, Anchor is providing a different solution: Under the umbrella of a union, a
craft brewery can conceivably be owned by a multinational corporation and still give
its employees a seat at the bargaining table. If Anchor succeeds, and improves
employees’ work and living conditions while keeping its brand afloat, craft unions
could become a viable option for smaller breweries seeking to support staff and
manage profitable businesses.
source: Cat Wolinski on vinepairs.com
beernexus.com - SPECIAL REPORT
Anchor Workers Form First Ever Union
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