Brewbound Frontlines

Brewbound Frontlines: Union Efforts at Craft Breweries


Very few of the 8,275 craft breweries in the United States operate with union labor. Efforts by workers to change that have been met with mixed results.

Last year, workers at San Francisco’s iconic legacy brewery, Anchor Brewing Company, were first met with union-busting tactics, but ultimately workers and management agreed to a 3-year contact.

Just two months ago, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, efforts by the hospitality staff at Minneapolis’ Surly Brewing put the craft brewing industry once again under the microscope for its lack of union labor. Just two days after staff at Surly’s beer hall announced their intention to form a union, the company said it would shutter that beer hall at the end of October, citing financial struggles caused by the pandemic.

Nevertheless, a union election was held at Surly in October, which fell one vote short of reaching the majority needed to pass. Efforts to unionize at another Minneapolis craft brewery, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, were more successful, as management recognized the workers’ union.

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This week’s Brewbound Frontlines discusses why few craft breweries employ union labor. Joining this week’s panel are:

  • Evan Sallee, CEO and co-founder at Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis;
  • Patrick Machel, bartender and shop steward, at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco;
  • Dave Infante, editor of Fingers — a newsletter about drinking culture, being online, and beyond — in Charleston, South Carolina

Brewbound Frontlines is a bi-weekly live-streamed discussion series with beer industry leaders and watchers on the business adjustments being made during the COVID-19 crisis and the future of the industry. Frontlines is an extension of Brewbound’s leading B2B industry reporting. New episodes stream every other Thursday at 3 p.m. ET at

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