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We Are America’s First Unionized Microbrewery

Today is a momentous day in the history of Fair State – we just became the first microbrewery in the United States to become unionized. Yesterday morning, employees across our business – in both Minneapolis and St. Paul – banded together and requested that Fair State voluntarily recognize their union. In consultation with our member-owner Board of Directors, we quickly agreed to voluntarily recognize the union. We founded this cooperative on democratic principles, and this is the next natural step in our push to show that fair and democratic workplaces can thrive.

I’m writing to you today excited about the future of Fair State. Our team has once again proven that each and every one of them are leaders in our industry. They looked at a pandemic where we were asking our membership “how can we build a Fair State that does not just survive but thrives” and they have told us that this is one core piece of how we get there.

Our staff shared a variety of reasons for unionizing–here are just a handful below.

Anders, Warehouse Specialist: “I’ve been proud to work at a place like Fair State that doesn’t simply talk about community and democracy, but attempts to structure itself to live up to those ideals. Now we get to enter an amazing new phase where that can be matched up with the formal voice of a union to better empower the workers at Fair State.”

Rose, Lab Manager: “Craft brewing can be an exploitive industry, but Fair State has always prioritized employee welfare. By voluntarily recognizing the union, Fair State affirms that all brewery workers deserve a safe workplace where their voices are heard. Next chance you get, raise a fine pilsner to celebrate all the good folks making your beer!”

Donelle, Beertender: “When I heard the news this morning that we were voluntarily recognized, I cried. We’ve been working towards this for months. If there’s anything I’ve learned in almost 5 years working at Fair State, it’s that the workers have a strong voice. This union gives us an opportunity to be a place where we stand together.”

Aric, Brewer: “Forming a labor union at Fair State further exemplifies our commitment to creating an equitable and just workplace and community. I believe our union will help support and strengthen a business I am already proud to work for, and I am excited to be part of a labor movement in our industry and city that will exemplify the benefits of a fair and cooperative workplace.”

Keegan, Beertender: “We aren’t starting a union because Fair State is a bad place to work, but because it is a great place to work and we don’t want that to change.”

I am proud of the self-determination our team has shown by taking on the responsibility of organizing to make Fair State better. It takes tremendous courage to be at the vanguard of a movement. Of the thousands of small craft breweries throughout the country we are not aware of any our size that have unionized. We are not aware of any that were founded in our lifetimes that are unionized. There is no well-trod path or blueprint for us to follow. But we have always been about pushing boundaries in the name of brewing excellent beer and building a fairer state of business, and our team is ready for the challenge.

This is one more step to building the business that we have envisioned from the beginning – one where workers and consumers each have a say and stake in the business, working together to build something beautiful and thriving. Years in the future I want to be able to tell a story of success through solidarity. It will be a story about a brewery that dug in and worked collaboratively at all levels to chart a path through the storm of pandemic and recession to build a more just, equitable, and successful business – where the workers uniting and demanding a seat at the table drove Fair State’s success.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to one of our staff who said, “Fair State is by far the best brewery that I’ve ever worked for, but we can all see how much better it can be.” This is the spirit that drives us. We will work together in cooperation and solidarity to build the Fair State we all deserve.

In Cooperation,
Evan Sallee
Fair State Brewing Cooperative CEO

Note: Although we are the first microbrewery in the United States to unionize, we would also like to recognize three craft beer union pioneers–Schell’s in New Ulm MN, Headless Mumby in Olympia WA, and Anchor Brewing in San Francisco CA. Solidarity!