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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rogue of the Week: Rogue Ales

Don McIntosh of the NW Labor Press--a worker's rights publication that's not exactly neutral--has a devastating article about how Rogue Brewery treats its workers. The main issue is an effort to unionize Rogue that the management has aggressively fought. They have deployed tactics familiar to anyone who has followed labor relations in the US over the last 20 years--all legal by today's laws. But worse than that, McIntosh paints the picture of a hostile work environment where management acts capriciously to ensure full compliance. Examples:
  • But what provoked him to call the Teamsters was a January 2011 company meeting at which a brewer was fired in front of everyone else for having made sophomoric comments on a “letter of accountability.” Employees had been made to write the letter after some production mistakes. Alruiz says he remembers the boss’s exact words: “F*** off. You’re fired.”
  • Alruiz had his own complaint: He says when he agreed to serve as crew leader, he was promised a $1-an-hour raise, but didn’t receive it.
  • A week after filing the petition [to request a union election], Rogue Ales suspended Alruiz for two days, ostensibly for arguing with a co-worker. A week after that, it fired two of his friends, also union supporters.
And McIntosh also noted this on the company website: “Rogue is not for everyone,” says the jobs page on Rogue Ales’ web site, which adds the company’s opinion that “job security is a myth,” and “seniority is not fair.”

Rogue is a for-profit company and they can run their business however they wish. Furthermore, we haven't heard Rogue's side of the story, nor from the workers directly. Still, this is a hell of a lot bigger deal than honest pints or expensive beer and food. IAnd it's especially ironic, given Rogue's socialist-revolutionary brand identity.) As a consumer, I can also spend my money however I wish. I'd love to hear from Brett or Jack--they refused to talk to McIntosh--or Rogue workers. Holler if you want to clarify anything (the_beerax (at) yahoo (dot) com). In the meantime, I think my beer dollars will be directed somewhere other than toward Rogue.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, there were plenty of capitalist thugs back in the day (or now in the third world) quite happy to raise a fist - as we see on Rogue's labels - for many a reason.

As you say, more needs to be known but this is as good a reason as any to exercise one's right to buy beer elsewhere.

Alan
A Good Beer Blog

Anonymous said...

Boycott and isolate!

Anonymous said...

"And it's especially ironic, given Rogue's socialist-revolutionary brand identity."
- So true, so true.

Speaking someone in the brewing industry, I have heard so many bad things from people that work or have worked for Rogue, that I would never even consider taking a job with them.

Let's not forget, though, that John Maier is a great guy and a great brewer, and I'm sure there are many other great people in the Rogue ranks. As for the people at the top, I have heard too much to even take their side of the story seriously.

Daniel Warner said...

What we're entering (or entered?) a while back was a state where you have similar large "micros" that produce beer for all over the country--and they produce them in conditions not unlike the "macros."

That itself is only indicative of a larger problem: that home/craft brewing in America has changed from "anti-establishment movement" to "foodie sensate hedonism" and completely suppresses this discussion. Perhaps it's due to the demographics of beer snobbery and home brewing (white, male, middle class, Libertarian), but most will actively shrug off any comment on the politics or economics of what they're drinking. Beer Advocate specifically prohibits it.

Daniel Warner said...

Oh, and self-contradictory brand identity and marketing is pretty common these days. Starbucks and Whole Foods are two other good examples of the practice. You know where Whole Food's organic, farm-raised tilapia comes from? A for-profit prison in Colorado, where prison-laborers make around 30 cents a day (minus costs for living expenses). But at least it's "organic" right?

Velky Al said...

What kind of emasculated society do we live in when an employer can deny his staff the rights of freedom of thought, assembly and speech just because they wish to form a union?

PEC said...

UNIONS area thing of the past. They cost consumers money and are a conduit for organized crime and waste! Tough luck Alruiz, you probably should get off your high horse and be thankful for a job instead of feeling like you are entitled! Unions thrive on people's belief of entitlement. On the flip side, treat your people as you wnat them to be treated. If management is screwed up the good people will leave, the product will suffer, and the consumers will vanish. Management problem fixed!

Samurai Artist said...

Hate to say I told you so

Daniel Warner said...

PEC, perhaps you haven't noticed declining wages for everyone (wage earners and salary, we're all labor to the rich) since the 1970s. This is because management has successfully divided "white collar" from "blue collar" and used the former to attack the latter. And in doing so they've driven real wages down and profits for management up.

Bill Night said...

Re: Rogue's socialist branding: I was also rather bemused by their special Hempfest bottling, when they drug-test their own employees. I like a lot of their beers, but it sounds like a crappy place to work.

Andrew said...

Maier is still brewing 5 to 6 days a week. Gotta tell you something about how hard they work the brewers at rogue. When the main creative force and greatest asset of the company is working this hard, you could only imagine what is expected of everyone else. Then again, I just got a voicemail telling me to start working 50 chargeable hours a week to AVOID burnout.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you as an employee that it sucks to work for Rogue. It's common for managers to yell at staff in front of the customers. It's a regular thing for them to not pay employee's for training even though it's illegal not to. They constantly take away our employee meals and won't let us bring outside food in. They force us to tip out to the bartender and kitchen (which I don't mind paying, but it's illegal to force it, it's just common courtesy). Any Rogue employees that read this should file complaints with the Bureau of Labor and Industry when you don't get paid for training and if a union rep comes to you listen up. If we band together we can make sure we get treated right. Anyone that's reading this, please tip your server or bartender well when dining at Rogue, we really need it. They are screwing us left and right, but it's tough to find work these days. The employers know it too, so practices like these are common place.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the ridiculous prices and mediocre quality were enough to justify not buying Rogue beer.

Josef Mitelfruh said...

Rogue has a socialist-revolutionary identity? They posted updates on Sarah Palin's visits to Oregon! They are neither a friend of craft brew nor the brewer.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I had already "boycotted" their beers on the grounds that they are just plain mediocre. Even if they dropped their ridiculous prices, I would still stay away. This is just icing on the cake, I suppose.

Jeff Alworth said...

I'll do a follow-up on this post with some of the feedback I've received. Send me an email if you want to add to the conversation. I will keep all names and identifying info private.

Also, still haven't heard from Rogue. Maybe they don't read blogs.

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