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

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.

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