Surly is one of the largest and most prominent microbreweries in Minnesota. And like so many of these places, the owners are as reactionary anti-union as Jay Gould or Henry Ford could dream of being. Workers at Surly have tried to unionize. The response?
This email was sent out to 100+ Surly beer hall employees today. Many found out first via social media that they will soon not have jobs. We have not before heard mention of a closure come fall, and new hires have started as recently as this week. Say it with me: Union busting!! pic.twitter.com/wFgvoOQV3F
— Unite Surly Workers (@SurlyWorkers) September 2, 2020
And here’s the thing: no matter how “cool” it seems to work in a brewery (or outgrowth businesses like Surly’s Beer Hall, which we’ll return to in a moment), those jobs, generally speaking, aren’t exempt from all the bad stuff that can make jobs shitty in other fields. Low wages, no benefits, grueling hours, and sex-pest managers aren’t uncommon. Craft beer has basically the same warts you’ll find on the underbelly of any major American industry.
In the few instances where workers in the craft brewing industry have seen through the charade and decided “lol this sucks, let’s organize,” owners have dropped the #oneteamonedream pretense with the quickness. It happened at Rogue Ales in Newport, OR in 2011; and again at Pyramid’s Berkeley, CA brewpub in 2013; and in 2019 in San Francisco, where workers at Anchor Brewing, the country’s oldest craft brewery faced a decidedly corporate union-busting campaign that featured high-powered anti-labor law firms and managers shouting “fake news” at workers exercising their federally protected right to unionize. Very cool shit, nice work all around.
Allan Pinkerton’s desiccated corpse sips a Surly smiling from his grave.