USA: Anchor Brewing ratify first union contract in 123 years

Today, 62 workers at Anchor Brewing Company, widely considered to be the leader of the American craft beer revolution, and at Anchor Public Taps, the company’s brew pub, voted to ratify the first union contract in the history of 123-year-old brewery. It is a three-year contract negotiated jointly between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Local 6, and Anchor Brewing, owned by Sapporo Holdings, makers of Japan’s oldest beer brand.

In February 2019, workers at Anchor Brewing wrote a letter to the management asking it to recognize the union as representatives of the breweries’ workers (, 19.2.2019). In August while being in San Franciso pro-labor presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders met with workers from the brewery and took some time to discuss labor issues. In a lengthy process representatives of the union and the brewery negotiated in the last months a contract which was now ratified.

 “This is an important chapter in the history of the ILWU and in the history of one of the most storied and beloved beers in America,” said ILWU International Vice President Bobby Olvera Jr. “We believe that being a union-made beer is a selling point for Anchor. When people drink Anchor, they’ll be supporting fair wages and benefits for the workers who make and serve this outstanding and unique product.”

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

Key components of the Anchor union contract include:

  • Substantial compensation increases for employees over the next 3 years. (Increase amounts vary based on seniority and position, but in the first year of the contract, on average, workers represented by ILWU Local 6 will receive an approximate 8% increase in wages and benefits).
  • Time and a half pay for all employees who work on a company recognized holiday.
  • Maintenance of quality health insurance, with Anchor paying 85% of the premium for employees and 50% for dependents.
  • Enhanced 401(k) with additional employer contributions tied to brewery production to promote shared interest.
  • Paid 1/2 hour lunch periods instead of unpaid lunch breaks, which are the industry norm.
  • Paid Time Off now extended to part-time workers, formerly only full timers qualified.
  • Pay for a portion of any sick time that employees accrue beyond their cap on hours for both full- and part-time employees.

As an example of the wage increases afforded to employees under the new contract, junior workers in the Brewery will receive an immediate increase from USD 16.50 per hour to USD 18.50 per hour as of January 1, 2020. By the end of the third year of the contract, they will be earning a little over USD 21 an hour.

At Public Taps, the majority of the bartenders and bar backs will receive an immediate increase from USD 15.60 an hour to USD 18.25 an hour as of January 1, 2020, and by the end of the contract they will be making an average of nearly USD 20 an hour.

The unparalleled history of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company can be traced all the way back to the California Gold Rush. In 1965, Fritz Maytag rescued the brewery from imminent bankruptcy, and kept the legacy of San Francisco’s Steam Beer alive. Before long, Anchor had pioneered the introduction of several entirely new and distinctive beer styles and, though the terms “microbrewing” and “craft brewing” had yet to be coined, it was clear that Anchor was leading a brewing revolution in San Francisco that would eventually spread across the country.

In 2017, Anchor was purchased by Sapporo. Sapporo employees at the company’s breweries in Japan and Canada have been represented by unions for many years and, now, San Francisco’s legendary brewery has joined that list.

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