Workers at Minnesota distillery push to unionize
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Workers at Minnesota distillery push to unionize

| Jul 17, 2020 | Administrative Rule |

Some parts of the hospitality industry are unionized, but this typically involves large hotel chains or hospitality corporations. So craft beverage industry veterans in Florida and across the rest of the country are closely watching an evolving situation where some production staff and bartenders are pushing to unionize a popular craft distillery in Minneapolis.

Tattersall Distilling employs 40 full and part-time staff in running a cocktail lounge and selling its popular products in liquor stores as well as bars and restaurants. It has also adapted by selling takeout cocktail kits and manufacturing hand sanitizer.

As Minnesota pushed to a Phase 2 reopening, workers at the distillery have had sometimes contentious negotiations with the two owners, and there have also been protesters demonstrating outside the distillery. The owners have threatened to call the police on a union representative from Local 17, representing 6,000 workers at hotels, restaurants and hospitality establishments.

The complaints

Critics fear that employees are trying to press an advantage because many owners struggle to reopen or stay open during these unprecedented times. So far, the staff has voiced concern about:

  • The two owners have been too vague about plans for reopening.
  • The owners did not involve workers in discussions for if, when or how to reopen.
  • It appears that some workers would not be able to return to work.
  • Other workers will have to reinterview for their job.
  • Management’s top-down approach has been a “leave if you don’t like it” attitude in the past.
  • Additional compensation for working under dangerous conditions.
  • Training for more inclusive hiring practices.
  • New policies addressing inappropriate or racist behavior in the workplace.

Management responds

The owners declined to allow the workers to voluntarily recognize the union. However, they would support an election held by the National Labor Relations Board – Local 17 has petitioned to become the distillery’s workers’ certified representative. The process could take a month or more.

The potential for national implications

While this case has certainly caught the attention of local and regional business owners and employees, it could have national implications with the rise of the craft beer and spirits scene. It should also be noted that on-site taprooms and tasting rooms are the most profitable part of smaller craft beverage operations, so this could profoundly impact the viability of these small businesses.

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