Saturday, 31 August 2013

Boycotting Labatt Imports


The long Labour Day weekend is in full swing and while we’ll all have the many sacrifices and victories of the labour movement on our minds this weekend, it’s also a time for relaxation. And relaxation is often accompanied by a particular drink: beer.

Beer is why this post is so important. This weekend we want to express our solidarity with the men and women of the Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) in St. John’s as they have been engaged in a protracted strike since April 10[1].

Their employer, the Canadian division of Anheuser-Busch InBev Brewing Corporation, is the world’s largest brewing corporation. Its after-tax profits run at around $9 billion a year. Despite such massive profits, Anheuser-Busch has been trying to impose roll-backs and force concessions on its workers.  

This massive multi-national company may be trying to set a precedent with these demands. If the workers in Newfoundland were to accept the roll-backs and concessions, the corporation could use this as leverage when dealing with workers at any of their other locations. Given the fact that Anheuser-Busch has operations around the world, about 50 striking workers in Newfoundland stand between the corporation and the setting of a dangerous precedent that would validate corporate efforts to demand concessions from workers at its other operations.

To help put pressure on the company and show support for the workers, NUPGE has requested a consumer boycott of labels that are produced by Anheuser-Busch. Such labels include: Stella Artois, Becks and Lowenbrau. Labatt, perhaps the most well-known Canadian beer, is also produced by Anheuser-Busch. But the boycott has mainly been limited to Labatt imports like those listed. The idea being that the company should feel the pressure, but the other unionized workers at Labatt should not experience any loss of work[2].  

The striking workers are finding many supporters, from the local students’ union at Memorial University where the campus bar has embraced the boycott[3], to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), which has officially endorsed a national consumer boycott against imported brands of Labatt beer. The CLC is urging the company to bargain fairly with the striking workers. With the support the workers are receiving, it is the employer’s only decent option for ending this strike. Ken Georgetti, President of the CLC, notes that the company is trying to force the workers into a race to the bottom and, “Canadian workers and their unions are not going to stand idly by and allow this to happen.”[4]

So whatever your plans are this weekend, if they include having a cold one, you could help the striking workers in Newfoundland by reaching for a different label.