Union workers at Anchor Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewer in the United States, want to buy the 127-year-old company and run it as a cooperative to save it from closing, a union official said.
The company said last week that economic pressures, including the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, left it “with no choice but to make this sad decision to cease operations.” But employees, given 60 days’ notice and promised severance packages, have suggested a way to keep the beer flowing.
The workers are “determined to launch an effort to purchase the brewery and run it as a worker cooperative,” according to a proposal letter from Anchor employees. Pedro de Sá, the business agent at International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6, whose members include Anchor workers, presented the proposal Wednesday to Mike Minami, president of Sapporo USA, which owns the company.
“What we want is the opportunity to continue doing our jobs, making the beer we love, and keeping this historic institution open,” the letter said. “We don’t want the brewery and brand we love to be sold before we even have a chance.”
On Wednesday, The unionized Anchor workers posted a link to the VinePair article on Twitter: “It’s time to test everyone’s love of this brand. Let’s work this out together and bring back what we’ve almost lost.”
Sam Singer, a spokesman for Anchor, did not comment on the proposal Thursday but said about two dozen investors and individuals have expressed interest in Anchor Brewing Co.’s assets.
“It’s encouraging to see so many people embracing the tradition of an iconic San Francisco company and beer,” said Mr. “We remain optimistic that Anchor will be acquired and continue into the future, but that decision will be in the hands of the liquidator and depends on what is available from potential buyers.”
The Japanese beer giant Sapporo received the company, founded in 1896, in 2017 for about $85 million. In 2019, Ancaire workers voted to unionise, describing inadequate wages and unfair working conditions.
Mr de Sá said in an interview on Thursday that he had met with the 39 workers who are members of the union and represent about two-thirds of the brewery’s workforce. In a meeting at the factory on Wednesday, the employees agreed to form a committee to review the bylaws and take further steps to compete for ownership.
“There was an agreement to set up the cooperative and try to buy it from Sapporo, and we informed the company the same day,” said Mr. de Sá. “We expect the company to give the workers a fair shot.”
But the start of the liquidation process for the company on August 2 was unfolding.
“The timeline is very short,” said Mr de Sá. “As far as we know, the company will be sold in parts, and we want enough time to make a serious offer.”
When the shutdown was announced on July 12, ILWU Local 6 describe it as a “tragic consequence” of a large corporation operating a local institution from a base across the Pacific and “failing to understand how to market, sell and distribute a great product that has been loved for generations.”
Anchor has stopped brewing but has said it will continue to sell beer until it runs out or through the end of July, whichever comes first. Anchor Taps Public sell the remaining inventory.
Following the news of the impending closing spread, fans went outside the taproom to buy T-shirts and cases of beer and help drain the remaining inventory, The Associated Press reported. In the Bay Area, NBC News reported this week that they had other investors expressed interest in saving the brewery.
At Sapporo, Anchor Steam was “just another line item in the budget,” the union said at the time, but workers and the city of San Francisco are suffering the consequences.