Thursday, January 26, 2023

Update on Creature Comfort Brewing’s union organizing

Last week I reported that the employees of Creature Comforts Brewing Co. formed their own independent labor union, the Brewing Union of Georgia (aka BUG) and announced their intent to unionize their workplace.

A lot can happen in a week.

1.) Creature Comforts refused to voluntarily recognize the union.

2.) BUG filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board.

3.) Creature Comforts hired Littler Mendelson, the same law firm running the anti-union campaign against the organizing employees of Starbucks and Apple (among others), to represent it and oppose BUG's unionizing efforts.

4.) BUG has now harnessed the power of social media to start a public campaign against Creature Comforts accusing it of union busting. 

Needless to say, at least some of Creature Comforts' consumers are not happy with steps two and three. They've taken to social media themselves, hijacking the brewery's own Instagram posts to express their displeasure.

  • just wondering why you fear your workers being able to demand better for themselves
  • Yooo recognize that union. Stop with the union busting, it's a massive waste of money. Just meet your workers in good faith, it's so easy.
  • So disappointed that you would rather spend $ union busting than meeting in good faith with the workers whose labor has made your beer and brand so successful in the first place. You could have been the coolest and best brewery in GA, but instead you've decided to become the wackest. #NotSoCreatureComforts
  • Recognize the damn union!
  • I have to stop drinking your beer indefinitely and tell others to do the same until you recognize the union ☹️
  • Hard pass 'til the union busting stops. Booooooooooo
  • i hope you guys recognize the union so i won't have to stop drinking your beer, cuz i will
  • End your union busting tactics and actually support your employees
  • Union busting is way more expensive than negotiating in good faith (not to mention is a disgusting thing to do).

This is getting ugly, and quickly. It also reminds me of an article coincidentally published yesterday in the Harvard Business Review — How to Work with Your Unionizing Employees. Here's the thesis:

Employers at companies with organizing campaigns or strikes have a better chance of building a place where workers want to stay — if they would only listen to what their workers are trying to tell them.

Most don't, and instead turn to scorched-earth campaigns against organizing workers. Companies like Amazon and Starbucks epitomize this zero-sum approach — any victory for the union is a defeat for the company. Both companies have committed or been accused by the NLRB's General Counsel of scores of violations of labor law, including intimidating and firing workers who support the union and refusing to bargain with the union after it won the right to represent workers. 

They propose that employers avoid the outdated playbook of unionbusting pushed by some management-side lawyers and law firms, which often includes firing the organizers and embracing other illegal tactics. In addition to their illegality, they also serve as proof of concept for the unions. 

Instead, consider walking a middle ground between rolling out the red carpet for the union and scorching the earth with illegal union busting. Affirm employees' right unionize (even while you disagree with its need in your business) and rationally explain why you disagree. It seems to me, however, when you hire the biggest anti-union law firm in the country, you send a strong message to your employees and their labor union that you've declared WWIII. Given the current wave of unionization, I don't believe that's a winning strategy.