For SF Brewers, it’s Full Steam Ahead as ILWU signs its first Union Contract

Anchor Brewing Company (ABC) has become the latest brewery to recognize the benefits of giving employees good wages and working conditions and a voice on the job.

Congrats to the approximately 62 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Local 6 of Oakland who approved the first union contract in the history of ABC. As of January 1, when the three-year contract took effect, the iconic Anchor Steam and Anchor Public Taps brands officially became union-made.

“Now have a road map for how we work,” said Jon Ezell, a brewer of three years at ABC and recently-appointed shop steward. “When people have questions about how things should be done, about when people are hired and how they should be paid, when they have a complaint or a grievance, now we have forms to do that and have them be listened to.”

The contract, which took some nine months to negotiate, includes wage increases over the course of the next three years; time and a half pay for employees who work on company recognized holidays; maintenance of quality health insurance and enhanced 401*k). Workers now get 30 minute paid lunch breaks where the industry norm is for unpaid lunch breaks.

With the new contract, an already solid place to work becomes that much more desirable, according to Ezell.

“It’s already an iconic brewery and a great place to work,” Ezell said. “Everyone is excited to work here especially now that we have things more clear and transparent. The union has really opened up communication with management. It’s a two-way street and we’re more involved.”

Dating back to the California Gold Rush and located in San Francisco since the late 19th century, ABC views itself as the nation’s first craft brewery, meaning beers are handmade  in a copper brew house from an all-malt mash.

“We’re proud of being the first union craft beer,” said Ezell. “We hope that when they are in supermarkets, people will think about the fact that there are beers made by people who now have union benefits and protection. We hope they will send a message to the beer industry that this is a good thing.”

ABC was purchased by Sapporo in 2017. According to a statement released by ILWU and ABC, employees at the company’s breweries in China and Japan have long been represented by unions. The agreement covering the San Francisco workers is a natural progression.

“We look forward to a strong future together with the newly formed union,” Scott Ungermann, Brewmaster for Anchor Brewing Company, said in a prepared statement. “Anchor has a storied history and enduring commitment to making great beers and valuing the people who brew them.”

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