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Saving San Francisco's Anchor Steam Brewery
Employee efforts to buy Anchor Steam
What’s happening: Anchor Steam Brewery was founded as America's first craft brewery in 1896. In July, the sudden announcement of closure of the 127-year-old San Francisco craft brewery took many by surprise, with the company citing economic conditions such as a highly competitive market, inflation, and the recent pandemic. But this is not the first time the company has come close to an end. In 1965 Fritz Maytag bought the business and was later sold in 2010 to Griffin Group. In 2017 the Japanese multinational corporation Sapporo acquired and rebranded the company.
The employee response: In response to the brewery's closure, a team of former employees has embarked on a new path, envisioning a workers' co-op. This cooperative venture aims to grant employees decision-making authority and provide benefits like profit sharing. A worker cooperative would mean the employees would govern their business as a democracy as every worker owner would participate in decision-making in a democratic manner. With support from San Francisco leaders, the workers launched a bid to buy the brewery and run it as a co-op. With different investors expressing interest, Anchor employees will have to align with investors in a bid for assets.
The Los Angeles Times spoke with Alison Lingane, co-founder of Project Equity, a non-profit dedicated to harnessing employee ownership to maintain thriving local business communities. Project Equity is also working with former Anchor Brewing employees. Additionally, more than five breweries have also reached out to the Anchor Union Instagram to discuss different beers sold to raise proceeds that will partly go toward the union and attempts to buy assets.
Why it matters to employees: Employees are hoping to avoid the loss of their jobs while also maintaining an important piece of San Francisco's history. I think the employee's efforts are admirable because they are pushing to keep a craft brew open that has lived through significant events in history such as the great depression, prohibition, and two world wars.