Workers at historic San Francisco brewery Anchor have something new to toast today: The brewers elected to unionize their workplace in a 31 to 16 vote. The tally was taken after an announcement last month, in which workers proclaimed their desire to unionize, seeking better wages, working conditions, and job security. Now, they’ll be officially certified with the National Labor Relations Board.
“There’s a big collective sigh of relief going around here right now,” says Garrett Kelly, a worker in the fermentation department who’s supported the unionization effort. While the vote wasn’t unanimous, Kelly calls it “a pretty strong mandate moving forward for our next chapter.”
That next chapter: Contract negotiations with Anchor and its parent company, Sapporo Holdings Ltd. The new union will choose a bargaining committee to join Anchor and Sapporo, which acquired Anchor in 2017, at the table.
A representative for Anchor had the following statement on behalf of the company:
“Anchor Brewing Company employees voted today to unionize, marking a major milestone for our brewery and the industry as a whole. Anchor is proud of its long history of firsts, which ignited the modern craft beer movement. We look forward to discussions with the newly formed union and strengthening our collective future with all of our employees.”
Anchor workers like Brian Witte, who started on Anchor’s bottling line five-and-a-half years ago, are eager to institute changes like regular raises. Witte’s first job, which was on the lowest tier of production, paid him $17.25 an hour, and now, on the highest tier production job, he makes just $1.81 cents more. “I’m one of the lucky ones who got a small raise,” Witte said last month.
For workers who didn’t vote to join the union, Kelly says he hopes “they can see this is in everyone’s best interest.” They could also be joined by workers at Anchor Public Taps, a taproom and pilot brewing operation from Anchor Brewing across from its main Potrero Hill facility. Anchor Public Taps workers will vote on Friday to join Kelly and the rest of Anchor’s workers across the street, though they’ll be a separate bargaining unit.
That’s one management tactic — dividing workers into different bargaining units — that Kelly and others interpret as anti-union. He cites “antagonizing” and “disinformation” intended to discourage unionization. While that’s disappointing to Kelly, Anchor workers are “thrilled by the support of the community,” he says.
“We’ve been working our butts off, as have the folks at the SF DSA,” the Democratic Socialists of America, who help orchestrate the unionization effort. “They’ve been instrumental in going out and getting that community support, which is overwhelmingly positive.”
“People that serve our beer, drink our beer, they’ve been really supportive, and that’s really reassured [us] workers, that we’re not alone.
Eater SF has reached out and awaits comment from Anchor Brewing.