Tuesday, June 28, 2011

..And Then They Came for our Beer

From New Glarus Brewing Company's Facebook page this morning:
Gov. Walker may be too busy to sit down and discuss the ramifications of Bill 414 on Wisconsin's small brewers, but this cost our state jobs and was not necessary to help South African Breweries known here as SAB Miller/Coors. Nor is Miller under any threat from AB/Inbev. This was passed to hamper the growth of Craft brewers.
I love New Glarus Brewing Company. They make the venerated Spotted Cow, a great wheat beer that has just the right touch of sweetness and goes down easy. They also make a great stout, several good ales, and a wonderful IPA. I would suggest a brewery tour to anyone. New Glarus is a perfect example of Wisconsin's fine tradition of craft brewery, going all the way back to our founding days in the lumber camps.

Governor Walker and the Republicans in this state just signed a budget perfectly designed to invite big, out-of-state money to come in and plunder us. No one is exempt. Our schools, our drinking water, our workers, our forests, and now our beer - all of Wisconsin is under threat of conglomeration, outsourcing, and increased privatization.

The Wisconsin Brewers' Guild wrote an open letter to Governor Walker last week:

Nearly 600,000 guests visit our packaging brewery members’ facilities a year which represents 2.8 people for every barrel brewed. An additional 1.3 million people are entertained by our brewpub members. Since the beer sold by WI craft breweries is still only about 5% of the beer purchased in Wisconsin, it is easy to see how many visitors we could bring in if our collective market share would climb to our goal of 30+%.

Today there are over 50 small breweries and brewpubs operating in Wisconsin, employing more than 1000 state citizens. This doesn’t include the auxiliary industries that support these small breweries such as maltsters, glass manufacturers, paper manufacturers, chemical manufacturers, and brewing equipment manufacturers.

Once again, if we reach our goals, we will be employing over 6000 people directly by our members, and hundreds more would need to be added by our suppliers. Collectively, these businesses have been steadily adding jobs to our state for the last 25 years, including through most recent economic downturn. Craft brewing is one of the fastest growing industries nationwide.

Small brewers are also responsible for starting a renaissance in brewery related agriculture in Wisconsin, with barley, wheat, and hops now being grown to supply the state’s craft brewing industry.


Besides stifling future growth these changes also de-value existing businesses by removing valuable, portable, assets from their portfolios.

Interestingly, the principals promoting these radical modifications to the business models have been steadily reducing Wisconsin jobs. The Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association is a shrinking organization. In 1994, there were 92 wholesalers in the state. In 2007, there were 67. Today there are 42. Each of these closures or mergers results in loss of jobs. Miller-Coors has been steadily reducing workforce in the state for years, including the recent move of their corporate headquarters to Illinois.

Much of this reduction is due to a nationwide push for “distributor consolidation” driven by mergers of the world’s largest brewers. It is well publicized that Miller-Coors is seeking to have all of their brands with the same distributor. In Wisconsin, the consolidation has been completed in Milwaukee, Madison, and the southwestern quadrant of the state. The northern half of the state still has independent Miller and Coors wholesalers. The only portion of this legislation that is fiscal in nature creates a new state bureaucracy funded by new “wholesaler permits” with a cap fee of $2500. When the Miller-Coors consolidation process is complete in the north, there will be insufficient funding for this new position. This seems to run counter to your policies.

We believe that changes can be made to our distribution laws in a way that NO Wisconsin businesses are losers. The process should include input from all affected parties.

Please veto all of motion 414 in its entirety.

In spite of this plea from local businesses, the budget was passed, and the governor signed it without so much as an acknowledgment of the existence of the Wisconsin Brewers' Guild.

When the governor says Wisconsin is open for business, apparently this means creating a climate where:
Taken together, these changes speak loudly. What does business prefer? A desperate labor force ready to take any job they can find: Workers with little money and less access to basic healthcare services. Reduced power at the bargaining table. Fewer options for upward mobility. No competition from local upstarts or small businesses: Craft breweries are but one example of this new "pro-business climate" we're creating in Wisconsin. Of course CEOs love us more today. They don't have to pay us, they don't have to deal with our pesky "rights," and they don't have to worry about local competition.

Recall primary dates approach fast. It's July 12th in some districts, and July 19th in others. Keep fighting. Don't let the bastards get you down. We will take this state back. Stick to your guns. Quit drinking that piss that Miller puts out - buy yourself a sixer of Spotted Cow and be proud of your state. We will take the Senate back this summer, and we will take the governor's office back this fall. Wisconsin will be ours!