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The Teamsters Want You to Boycott Molson Coors. There’s History There.

Big Beer Strikewatch 2024 ain’t over yet, folks.

Sure, Anheuser-Busch InBev struck a deal in the waning days of February to avert a strike on its American breweries by 5,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But even as ABI sidestepped a high-profile street fight with its resurgent union workforce, its longtime rival was digging in on a labor battle of its own. On Feb. 17, Molson Coors (MC) Teamsters walked off the job at the macrobrewer’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility in protest of what the union has called “insulting and regressive” contract proposals.

“The ball is completely in their court,” says Rick Miedema, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 997, which represents 420 workers at the Fort Worth brewery. Shortly after the strike began, MC brought in salaried, non-union employees to run batches of beer in the plant; he tells Hop Take the firm has also hired some temporary employees at higher-than-normal wages to end-around the strike. “It’s phenomenal, the lengths they have gone to to try to avoid settling the agreement with us,” he says.

MC did not respond to a request for comment.

As the strike approached its one-month mark last week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters — 997’s parent organization, which represents some 1.4 million workers across the United States and Canada — put out the call to the American drinking public to do likewise. “Molson Coors won’t negotiate in good faith with its workers and is accused of breaking the law,” reads a flier that the Teamsters began circulating on social media earlier this month. “Don’t Buy Molson Coors!”

Brewbound’s Zoe Licata first reported on the flier and boycott call. Hop Take independently confirmed with a Teamsters spokesperson that the flier is official union material. An MC spokesperson told the outlet last week that the boycott was “disappointing,” and claimed to be “committed to doing what’s right for everyone.”

The boycott explicitly covers 20 product lines that Teamsters normally brew at the Texas facility, from Coors Light and Miller Lite, to Topo Chico hard seltzer, to the Yuengling family of brands, which MC produces for the Pennsylvania firm under a 2020 contract meant to fuel the latter’s wobbly westward expansion. Miedema emphasizes that the union is asking for support from drinkers well beyond the Lone Star State’s borders. “They do produce some of those [brands] at other sites, but just as an overall whole, [we’re asking customers to] stay away from any Molson Coors products until the strike has resolved for Fort Worth.”

To escalate direct pressure on the company, Local 997’s picketers earlier this week also began blocking trucks from entering the MC facility. It’s backed up traffic onto the adjacent freeway, but so far, motorists don’t seem to mind, according to a report from the local NBC affiliate. That may be a testament to the historic moment of renewed support for the labor movement that we’re currently living through. The last time John Q. Guzzler felt this favorably about unions was more than 50 years ago, according to Gallup polling. As it happens, the Teamsters were boycotting Coors back then, too.

Considered by some historians to be the longest consumer embargo in American history, the Coors boycott ran from 1957 to 1987, predating both Coors Light (which was introduced in 1978) and the corporate merger between Coors and Miller Brewing Co. that would eventually lead to the formation of Molson Coors. What started as a shop-floor boycott at the Golden, Colo., brewery to protest the then-privately owned company’s domineering business practices would eventually sprawl into a national coalition of labor organizations, LGBTQ+ advocates, and Chicano and Black activists pulling against everything from the firm’s alleged use of polygraph tests to weed out homosexual job applicants, to the Coors family leaders’ Reagan-humping, hard-right politics.

The Teamsters got involved in the early ‘70s when the Bay Area’s Local 888, which represented the drivers of most of San Francisco’s beer trucks, allied with leaders from the queer community (including Harvey Milk himself) to get Coors out of bars and more gay workers into jobs.

As Allyson Brantley, Ph.D., professor of history at California’s University of La Verne and author of “Brewing a Boycott,” a historical account of the three-decade collective action, told me in a 2021 interview, the union — one of several, including the then-mighty American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO — was an important part of the blockade, both strategically and symbolically.

“Boycotters themselves saw this as a really innovative effort: bringing together brash, hard-hat Teamsters working alongside gay activists, Chicano activists, and feminists,” she said. “I think it’s actually more representative of more far-reaching efforts across a lot of these kinds of leftist communities to come together in this period. … The Coors boycott is a good example that we do have some robust efforts at alliance-building.” (For much, much more on this, check out my 2023 Taplines episode with Brantley.)

The international has sought to channel that history in the contemporary contract fight against MC, posting old anti-Coors paraphernalia and slogans to social media.


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The inciting incidents of the original Coors boycott are more sundry and sordid than the straightforward bargaining dispute that has precipitated the present-day Teamster strike on MC in Texas. The political environment is different, too. Thanks in no small part to generations of Coors family largesse, conservative assaults on labor law and directly on unions themselves have dramatically weakened the movement writ large. (The Clintonian corporatization of the Democratic Party, and major corruption scandals at the country’s largest unions, including the Teamsters, didn’t help.) The Colorado beer dynasty has mostly receded from the vanguard of the American right wing and has long since given up direct control of the day-to-day operations, making it tougher to associate Coors the beer with Coors the Reaganite ATM.

It’s also important to note that the 20th-century boycott neither drove Coors out of business nor forced it to rehire a union workforce at its Golden brewery, which remains non-union to this day, unlike others in the broader MC network. The campaign hurt sales and forced the company into pumping gobs of money into advertising and donations to various advocacy efforts in what Brantley calls a forerunning effort at “corporate social responsibility,” but it ended with the Coors family’s grip on the company mostly intact. As ever, “success” is a slippery thing to measure: Meaningful consumer boycotts are notoriously difficult to pull off, and these days rarely make it past the social-media teeth-gnashing stage.

(I’ve argued in previous columns that the efficacy of the right-wing rejection of ABI’s flagship and broader portfolio in 2023 flowed more from company mismanagement than anything else, but even if I’m wrong, it’s an exception that proves the rule: Though ABI’s U.S. business has taken a considerable hit, it set a global revenue record last year anyway.)

Regardless, today’s Teamsters in Texas face a fundamentally similar challenge to their union brethren of yesteryear: Get Americans of all stripes to stop buying specific beers until the corporation that still bears its name gets with the times. As in, the very, very recent times. Miedema says, “We sent them a counteroffer almost two weeks ago, with a letter from our attorneys basically saying, ‘Based on the industry standards set by the most recent Anheuser Busch agreement, here’s what it’s going to take for the union to settle the contract dispute.’”

The company, he says, has yet to respond.

🤯 Hop-ocalypse Now

There are a lot of ways to measure the brand strength of New Belgium Brewing’s juggernaut line of hazy juice bombs, Voodoo Ranger. You could look at its staggering off-premise sales in dollars and volume, for example. You could focus on the dominance of its 19.2-ounce stovepipes in the vital convenience store channel, or the fact that its skeleton mascot is a popular choice for Halloween costumes and even tattoos. But the latest indicator of the marque’s market confidence, I think, is its upcoming collaboration beer with the frozen pizza brand Tombstone named “IP(izza)A.” Why is it spelled like that? Why does it cost $49.99 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans? Don’t bother answering: As a limited-edition alco-llaboration with the “Rangerous” stamp of approval, IP(izza)A will probably sell out before you do. After all, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American drinking public.

📈 Ups…

The writer behind “Peaky Blinders” is working on a new Netflix show about the Guinness dynasty… Congrats to New Belgium’s new chief marketing executive on the new gig… Congrats to the new owners of the Cicerone certification program, which I didn’t realize could be bought/sold…

📉 …and downs

Monster laid off a dozen workers at Cigar City Brewing’s production facility in TampaDraft beer volumes were down 20 percent year-over-year on St. Patrick’s Day 2024, per BeerBoard… A California judge tossed a lawsuit alleging Pabst Brewing Co. is falsely advertising Olympia with its tagline “It’s the Water”

The article The Teamsters Want You to Boycott Molson Coors. There’s History There. appeared first on VinePair.

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