Buyouts, Poverty, and Sexual Harrassment; Welcome to 2019!

The new year often brings very little in the way of news, but 2019 is getting off to a hell of a start. Three items to note on your Monday morning.  


 More Sexual Harrasment

The most consequential news of the weekend concerns a new Portland brewery I’ve been very excited about: West Coast Grocery Company (WCGC). Sometime in the past two weeks, a male employee harassed a female co-worker. All of this played out on social media, and the names of the involved are mentioned. I don’t feel comfortable passing along info scraped off Instagram accounts, however, so you’ll have to go read about it yourself. What doesn’t seem to be in dispute is this. The incident happened and the particulars were not in dispute. The brewery waffled, trying to support the harasser while offering tepid support to the harassed. The latter, quite reasonably, felt unsupported and in peril, so she quit. All of this started playing out on social media, and so WCGC fired the harasser. The brewery then issued what appeared to be a very strong statement against sexual abuse along with the announcement of the culprit’s termination. But by that time, bystanders (read: everyone on social media following the events) had already concluded that the brewery had screwed up and launched a fusillade of invective. 

Important context: half the craft beer drinkers in Portland are women, plus a growing number within the industry. Sexual harassment is no longer something that can be papered over. 


Columbia Distributing Makes Another Acquisition

Columbia Distributors is the single most powerful player in the Northwest beer market, and it just got more powerful. On Friday, it announced the acquisition of Graybeal Distributing, a family wholesaler founded in 1955 covering Umatilla, Morrow, Union, Baker, and Wallowa counties. They distribute the two biggest breweries there, Barley Brown’s and Terminal Gravity. Last year Columbia picked up Oregon City’s General Distributors and Washington’s Marine View. 

This highlights an issue that will be a focus of this blog in 2019: the growing power the few remaining US distributors exercise in dictating the fortunes of small breweries. This is a massive, if subterranean issue, and it arises from decades-old laws that served a beer industry that no longer exists. 


Writers Are Poor

Im mainly throwing this in because all roundups require at least three stories. If you follow this blog, you know writers struggle to cobble together a working living. A just-released survey of thousands of US writers puts the numbers to our plight: 

  • “Median incomes of all published authors who were surveyed—including part-time, full-time, traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid-published authors—for all writing-related activities was $6,080, down 3% from four years ago. This is down from a $10,500 median income in 2009 according the Authors Guild’s last survey. 
  • “Median income for full-time authors for all writing-related activities, however, was $20,300 ... considerably lower than the $25,000 median income full-time authors earned in 2009. 
  • “18% of full-time authors earned $0 in book-related income during the same time period [2017].

Whee! It is super far out in the weeds for most readers, but if you follow beer twitter, you will have seen sometime-vicious fights among writers who are augmenting their income with the kind of work (consulting, direct work for breweries, paid junkets, advertising, etc.) that journalistic ethics once forbade. This is the reason. For most of us, side hustles are the only thing that allow us to keep doing the work. (The ethics I apply are described here and here.)

Jeff Alworth2 Comments