After Year-Long “Clandestine” Campaign, Anchor Brewing Workers Unionize

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Anchor Brewing workers kept their campaign to unionize secret for a year, then presented management with a letter declaring their intent to unionize.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Last week, employees of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco voted 31-16 to unionize with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

“I am feeling very juiced,” said Anchor Brewing racking room worker Brace Belden. “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.”

While a union win in the liberal city of San Francisco is not all that surprising, what makes the ILWU victory interesting is how long it took for such a small group to petition to unionize…and how secretive it was.

“Today was a successful culmination of a clandestine organization process that lasted more than a year. In February, the process went public when workers presented management with a letter stating the intent to organize with 39 signatures affixed to it. That set in motion the process leading to today’s vote.”

Anchor Brewing is owned by Japan’s Sapporo Holdings, Ltd, which bought the company in 2017.

Sapporo paid $85 million for the 122-year old brewery, according to, after “Skyy Vodka executives Tony Foglio and Keith Greggor, via their Griffin Group investment and consulting firm, purchased the brewery from washing machine heir Fritz Maytag in mid-2010 for an undisclosed amount.”

Deteriorating wages, increased healthcare costs and cutting benefits appear to have been the primary causal factors for the unionization effort, according to Mission Local.

“When Fritz Maytag, the savior of Anchor Brewing, sold the place in mid-2010, starting wages were $17.25 an hour. Just correcting for inflation, that figure should be $20 an hour in 2019. But, quite the opposite, starting wages were cut to $15.50 after Maytag left the scene. They have since reached $16.50 — but, obviously, that’s not $20. The cost of living in San Francisco, meanwhile, has only traveled toward infinity and beyond.”

“Apart from the hourly wages, in 2017, workers were made to contribute significantly more to their healthcare plans. Moreover, paid 45-minute lunches were replaced with half-hour unpaid lunches — a stealth appropriation of thousands of dollars from already marginally compensated employees. The brewery was obtained by Sapporo in mid-2017. But, in 2018, Anchor ceased contributing to workers’ 401Ks. In 2019, the cap for accrued sick time was halved.”

While the ILWU is not expected to sit down with management to begin negotiations “for weeks,” workers at the Anchor Public Taps were due to vote last Friday.

The outcome of that election has not yet been published.


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