Joe Kenehan Center

Thursday, June 26, 2003
Why Are Janitors Are Getting Ahead?
As Harold Meyerson points out in this important op-ed, janitors in some major cities are expanding their access to affordable health care at a time when most working people are watching their employer cut and slash their health coverage.

Why? Because the janitors are united in a union and they are moving ahead with a long-term strategy for building clout in their industry.

Why Can’t More Workers Get Ahead?
I was away a little last week and I missed an interesting exchange in the blogosphere on why American workers have such a hard time joining unions.

Calpundit asked the initial question. Nathan Newman responded here and here. But the most interesting strand of the discussion is on Calpundit’s comments thread. It’s long, but it’s worth scrolling to read about the experiences of some employees who thought about forming a union.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The Bottle Let Me Down
Interesting article in about beer and commercialism in the New York Times magazine.

The piece documents how young urban cool kids are adopting venerable Pabst Blue Ribbon as their brand of choice for cheap American beer. Pabst is quietly cultivating these drinkers with an anti-advertising campaign that deliberately eschews the shouts and rants that make up most of the frat-boy targeted marketing for beer like Budweiser, MGD, and Coors Lite.

Like an ambitious politician, PBR is now positioning itself as populist outsider that’s true to authentic American values.

Sadly, this pose isn’t any more genuine than Anheuser-Busch’s talkin’ lizards. As the piece notes, PBR is barely a “real” beer anymore. The company outsources its actual brewing to various megabreweries. PBR closed its actual brewery in Milwaukee years ago and then yanked away basic health care benefits that had been promised to its retirees.

Pabst now manages a stable of old local beer brands—including the Pacific Northwest’s Rainier and Olympia brands—although it sold off or closed the actual breweries, including plants up here in Seattle and Olympia.

It's easy to read the piece with mixed feelings. It's not surprising that people are getting sick of watching millions of dollars get wasted advertising for beers that taste exactly the same.

And it's heartening that it's become bike messenger chic to look back warmly at an era when most cities had locally owned breweries producing union-made beer for guys who had decent union jobs.

It's sad that those local beers are just shells now.

Maybe the only consolation is that at least some of the "local" beer that gets made at large corporate breweries is still produced by union workers.