Athens brewery workers reject union; appeal filed to NLRB

Creature Comforts Everything Is Strata.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Combined ShapeCaption
Creature Comforts Everything Is Strata.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Workers at a hip, up-and-coming Athens craft beer brewery have voted against being represented by a union, a decision that organizers have appealed to the National Labor Relations Board.

In a 32-21 vote, workers at Creature Comforts Brewing Company rejected an effort to name the Brewery Union of Georgia as their representative and give it the power to negotiate for a contract.

“We are pleased, but not surprised,” said Robert Kremer, a spokesman for the company.

More than 90% of eligible employees voted, he said. “We believe our employees voted to affirm the incredible culture and company that we have already built together at Creature Comforts.”

However, the union has challenged the results, he said. “We are confident we will overcome their challenges and that our team members’ votes will ultimately be honored.”

A message to the union was not answered Thursday.

The company, founded in 2015, makes a variety of beers. Organizers had petitioned the NLRB for the right to a vote after company officials turned down their request that the union be voluntarily recognized.

The NLRB ruled that there should be a vote.

As part of that decision, the NLRB said that production, maintenance and taproom employees were eligible to be part of the union and could vote on the question. Seasonally hired employees were not to be included in the potential bargaining unit, the NLRB ruled.

Company officials felt vindicated by the vote, Kremer said. “Since our formation nine years ago, Creature Comforts has created a workplace that acknowledges the needs and concerns of all our team members and recognizes each one as a person and not just a role. We are happy that our people voted in favor of preserving their individual voices and their right to chart their own journeys within our company.”

The organizing effort at Creature Comforts is the latest in a series of union campaigns in Georgia, some aimed at winning representation for a workers’ group, some meant to negotiate deals for workers already represented by a union.

Georgia is a state where unions have historically struggled and the recent scoreboard has been mixed.

About 70 workers at Corsair, a gaming equipment maker in Duluth, voted against representation by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In contrast, Teamsters won approval from a 52-person group at Quest Diagnostics in Tucker.

A handful of Atlanta-area Starbucks stores have also voted to join Starbucks Workers United.

Yet earlier this summer, the Teamsters reached a landmark, 5-year deal for its 340,000 organized workers at Sandy Springs-based UPS.

The state, one of 27 with “right-to-work” laws that are widely seen as making labor organizing harder, has one of the lowest shares of union representation in the nation.

Just 5.4% of Georgia’s workforce is represented by unions, compared to 11.3% nationally, according to Union Stats, which collects labor information.

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