Tired: "craft brewery." Wired: "beer factory."
Plus: Anheuser-Busch's $500 apologies!
Last month, workers at Duluth, Minnesota’s Vikre Distillery publicly announced their organizing drive with UNITE HERE Local 17.1 I’d been meaning to check in on this drive for awhile, but the right-wing grievance circus presented by Bud Light sidetracked me for basically all of April. Finally, last week, I was able to catch up with Anders Bloomquist about the drive at Vikre. Anders splits his time between the packaging line at Fair State Brewing Co-operative (which went union in 2020) and working as an organizer for Local 17.
In addition to the drive he’s currently working on, we also spoke about how the labor landscape in craft beverage—beer, wine, spirits, coffee, etc.—has shifted in the past couple years, what these workplaces share with those in higher-union-density industries, and why their structural tensions make this moment particularly ripe for organizing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Dave Infante, Fingers: Hey Anders, thanks for getting on the phone. What’s the situation at Vikre, where does it stand right now?
Anders Bloomquist, Fair State Brewing Cooperative/UNITE HERE Local 17: I’ve been working with this crew since like late August, and on April 18th, we announced to the owner that the staff had decided to organize their union. That got a you know, a polite response, but one that very clearly indicated they would be asking this to go to an election. We had had a range of elected officials that we’d brought into confidence in advance, to discuss with them and have them ready to offer their public support. Then we really pushed hard for a “pack the bar” event that evening that was wonderfully well-attended. I was there for a couple of hours before heading back to St. Paul, and the whole time, there was not an empty seat in the house. The attendance was great, the numbers were great, the tips were great. We got a wonderful reception from folks from established unions in the area, saw some great turnout from folks from those backgrounds. The other thing too, is in the Twin Cities I like to say that everybody in craft alcohol is about two degrees separated from each other. In Duluth, it’s even tighter than that.
We’ve spoken in the past about the opportunities of organizing the craft beverage sector. What’s your outlook on it these days? How does organizing a distillery like Vikre fit into the overall organizing strategy?