Labor and Breweries

Separate from their personal style of managing workers, the Rogue case does raise certain interesting questions, none of which will be resolved here. They may, if we're lucky, at least be fully enumerated. To begin with, breweries of any size start to look a whole lot like factories. Brew 50,000 barrels of beer, and you're working on an industrial scale. For decades, working at a brewing plant meant a union salary, job security, and probably all the work you wanted until retirement. We don't have a overwhelming number of manufacturing jobs left in America (owing mainly to computers and machines--we actually continue to produce more stuff year by year), so breweries have long been great places to work.

Small breweries, on the other hand, have a different situation altogether. Margins are razor thin, and the same guy who makes the recipes may be the guy who hauls grain and hoses down the brewery. Even decent-sized small breweries that employ a few people don't have the kind of income to offer manufacturing-type union jobs with good pay and benefits. Somewhere between Oakshire and Deschutes, there's a line where scale begins to earn breweries enough that they could conceivably begin paying line workers fairly decent wages. Many people have asked me over the years (mainly BlueOregonian type people) which breweries treat their workers the best. I haven't known--nor have I even known how to assess the question. I keep my ears open, but it's usually apples-and-oranges breweries.

I'm one of those fairly unreasonable pro-labor guys who seem to have mostly vanished in America (to us, the word "socialist" means "good and true"). There's no evidence that free markets are much endangered by fairly-paid workers. Still, not every business in the world can afford to pay the same thing. As with so much, there's lots of gray area.