Fair State just became one of America's only unionized craft breweries

Bre McGee, Star Tribune

Bre McGee, Star Tribune

What's that thing DJ Khaled always says? Another one?

Just 48 hours after Lawless Distilling Co. and Stilheart Distillery & Cocktail Lounge's Labor Day unionization announcement, Fair State Brewing Cooperative employees announced Wednesday that they too have unionized. The brewery's employees are the latest to join Unite Here Local 17, which represents around 6,000 area hospitality workers.

A statement from the Northeast microbrewery says that discussions around unionization have been going on for about a year.

"I am proud of the self-determination our team has shown by taking on the responsibility of organizing to make Fair State better,” said CEO Evan Sallee in that statement. “This is one more step to building the business that we have envisioned from the beginning—one where workers and consumers each have a say and stake in a business, working together to build something beautiful and thriving.”

“We thank Fair State leadership for setting an example for Minnesota’s Craft Breweries by voluntarily recognizing their worker’s Union," said Unite Here organizer Sheigh Freeberg. "This is proof that Workers and Employers can come together in a positive manner."

We're running out of ways to say "there's a growing labor movement in Minneapolis," but to not-quite-self-plagiarize our Monday story about Lawless/Stilheart: Fair State's employees are the latest in what you could call a blooming local labor push.

These latest unions followed union moves at Tattersall Distilling Co. (which became America's first unionized craft distillery last month), Spyhouse Coffee (which declined to voluntarily recognize the union), and Surly Brewing Co. (which laid off 100-plus workers last week after they announced plans to unionize).

While the big boys of brewing (Budweiser, MillerCoors, Pabst) are union shops, craft breweries have been fairly resistant to the concept. Just a handful exist around the country; as recently as 2014, NW Labor Press could identify only one, which was represented by teamsters. Anchor Steam is widely considered the country's first union craft brewery, and they only got that recognition in March of last year.

As for whether we'll see more brewery unions, well...

"While Fair State is among the first breweries in the state to organize a union we do not believe it will be the last," Unite Here's Freeberg said. "Brewery workers should know that they deserve a voice at work just like Fair State workers gained today.”