What Does a Non-Union Beer Taste Like?

The answer, in the case of Yuengling, a local Pennsylvania brew, is quite good (it was practically my fifth food group when I was in college). In fact, it's probably the best deal going in the US in beer if you can get it (I believe it compares quite nicely to many microbrews and global premium brews at nearly half the price). According to a local news source in Pennsylvania, Yuengling has been able to keep its costs down in part because of a recent aggressive stance against the Teamsters union (it should be noted for the record that Yuengling already pays a livable wage of $20/hour and provides complete healthcare coverage for its employees).

How did this family-owned business make the Spend Management decision to rid itself of the Teamsters? Apparently, "Dick Yuengling Jr., fifth-generation owner of the brewery that bears his name, called his employees together a few weeks before their labor contract was set to expire to talk about the future of the business ... [After this] the brewery says employees started a decertification drive on their own with no encouragement or interference from the owner." Even though the Teamsters are boycotting the beer because they're losing revenue -- it is a business in itself, after all -- one local software developer is still drinking the beer and notes "this is a pretty tough part of Pennsylvania. There's not a lot of jobs around here and they provide a lot of employment .. If the union gets decertified, it's because they're not adding value."

For all those CFOs and procurement executives who still have to deal with union threats in their own organization -- not to mention the supply risk from union suppliers -- the Yuengling case should provide encouragement to give the Teamsters the boot once and for all. After all, it's not just about reducing labor and operating costs (which is often the wrong reason to get rid of a union, except in the case of the UAW). Rather, reducing your own operational risk -- and the supply risk for your customers -- is reason enough to take the plunge.

Jason Busch

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