At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, Anchor Brewing Co. workers got some much welcome news: They had voted to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The union won by an almost 2:1 ratio (31 to 16) after a year-long campaign, supported by the ILWU and San Francisco chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
“The mood is jubilant,” says Garrett Kelly, a fermentation worker at Anchor in Potrero Hill. “This is a huge sigh of relief.”
The process leading up to Wednesday’s vote was marred by accusations of union busting and needling from Anchor’s lawyers and management. Workers reported that after they announced their intent to unionize, Anchor executives held captive audience meetings to “educate” them on the adverse effects of unionizing. On Feb. 26, Anchor workers filed an unfair labor complaint with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) against Anchor Brewing Company, after being told they couldn’t wear pro-union buttons on their work uniforms.
“We started this campaign because we were fed up with deteriorating pay, because our benefits were being slashed, and because many of us were concerned with the directions thing were going,” Anchor Union said in a statement released to the media Wednesday afternoon.
The next step is for the union to be officially certified by the NLRB, a process that takes 10 days, according to Kelly, before they can negotiate a contract. Employees at Anchor Public Taps vote whether to form their own union on Friday, Mar. 15.
Anchor workers announced their intent to unionize on Feb. 7, kicking off a month-long drive during which volunteers from the DSA and ILWU asked bars, restaurants, and liquor stores that sold Anchor beer to show their support for the union by putting up signs and posting on social media under the hashtag, “Anchored in SF.”
Part of Anchor workers’ reasons for unionizing was that their declining wages often meant they couldn’t afford to live in the Bay Area and had to commute from as far away as Sacramento — thus preventing them from being anchored in San Francisco.