Wednesday, January 18, 2023

What does Creature Comfort’s union announcement mean for your craft brewery?

The employees of Creature Comforts Brewing Co. recently held a rally to announce their intent to form a labor union. They also announced the formation of the Brewing Union of Georgia, an independent union created by the brewery's employees with the stated goal of spreading their movement across their state. Despite the union's "independence," it has received assistance and guidance from assistance from the United Campus Workers of Georgia and the Workers Center at the Economic Justice Coalition.

This is HUGE news for the craft beer industry.

In late 2021, I predicted that the wave of unionization that was starting to sweep through the hospitality and retail sectors would quickly reach craft breweries. Thus far, I've been wrong. Thus far.

Athens Political Nerd spoke to Katie Britton, brand marketing manager at Creature Comforts and one of the leaders of this unionization effort. 

"Many employees have taken on more and more responsibilities, and that leads to burnout and people leaving, which leads to more people taking on tasks which starts that cycle again. The things we're looking for are a clear structure around job positions, titles and roles, and having things in place to make sure people aren't overburdened. It's to give us a seat at the table to be able to talk about those policies with the company, instead of feeling that it’s coming just top-down."

Britton added, "We really want this to be a thing that snowballs the rest of the industry in our community." This is where all craft breweries need to start paying attention.

When unionization comes it tends to move through an industry. Thus, if the efforts to unionize Creature Comforts gains any traction at all, other craft breweries need to start planning as soon as possible for the possibility of union organizers talking to their employees or their employees deciding to DIY their own labor union.

Brewery owners and managers, now is the time to get your employment house in order. 

🍺 Do your employees feel that they are treated fairly? 
🍺 Do they feel respected and valued? 
🍺 Do they have a voice in your brewery or taproom? 
🍺 Do they think they are compensated fairly and equitably? 
🍺 Do they feel that they have a seat at the table?

How you and your employees answer these questions will help decide whether a union organizer gains traction when talking to your employees, or whether your employees will want to form a union. We'll have to wait and watch to see whether Creature Comfort is a one-off based on that particular workplace and its issues, or the start of trend within our industry. If it's the latter, you've been duly warned. Don't wait for the NLRB representation petition to arrive to do anything about it within your brewery.

Finally, if you learn of any craft breweries employees who are attempting to unionize, please let me know; I'm going to start a list so that I can determine if this issue is one of imminent concern for my industry or just a sporadic and isolate problem.