On Wednesday, Anchor Brewing Company became the first unionized craft brewery in the United States. Members of the 123-year-old San Francisco brewery, often considered one of the pioneers of the American craft beer industry, approved the motion by a 31 to 16 vote.
“I am fucking ecstatic. I spent every waking hour for the past year thinking about this. This is one of the happiest days of my life,” Brace Belden told the Mission Local. Belden, a part-time worker at the brewery, once fought the Islamic State with Kurdish militants in the Syrian Civil War, documenting his escapades under the now-defunct Twitter handle of PissPigGranddad. Recently, he helped spearhead a different kind of underdog resistance as one of the union movement’s ringleaders.
I am fucking ecstatic. I spent every waking hour for the past year thinking about this. This is one of the happiest days of my life.”
The motion came after more than a month of tense negotiations. As Splinter originally reported, some of Anchor’s employees were struggling to shoulder San Francisco’s high cost of living at California’s $15 per hour minimum wage. Belden told the publication that he needed a second part-time job to supplement his $16.50 hourly pay rate, while a fermentation department worker with eight years of experience at the brewery had to move out of the city to make ends meet.
The next step for the workers will be to negotiate with Sapporo Holdings Ltd., the Japanese company that acquired the famous brewery in 2017. Anchor Brewing Company has pledged to respect its employees’ collective decision.
“Our employees voted on March 13th to unionize, marking a major milestone for our brewery. Our priority was to ensure that all of our employees were given the opportunity to vote in a secret ballot election,” Anchor Brewing Company said in a statement to October. “We fully respect the results of the vote and are committed to negotiate in good faith with the newly formed union. We look forward to strengthening our collective future with all of our employees.”
It’s a victory for the brewers, but it could also signal a turning point for the industry at large. As of now, there are roughly 7,000 craft breweries in the United States. Time will tell if more decide to follow suit.