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Workers Call Out An Abusive Culture In Craft Beer

 May 21, 2021 at 9:59 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Workers in the craft beer scene, say the culture needs to change the viral me-too movement resonating in San Diego and beyond the push to unionize. One of California's newest industries, local marijuana retailers gain new protections and earning a college degree during a pandemic. San Diego state is ready to celebrate a graduating class, unlike any other I'm Joe Hong and the KPBS round tables. Speaker 2: 00:34 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:36 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Joe Hong. Joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table are freelance journalists best DeMann San Diego based reporter Jackie Bryant and Caitlin Newin social media editor for the daily Aztec. The me too movement became a cultural phenomenon in 2017. So much that time magazine honored it with its person of the year distinction as the silence breakers. But four years later, the issue of deep seated harassment and inequity for women in the workplace persists. The latest example is in San Diego's revered craft beer scene, a social media post by an industry worker asking women to share their stories of harassment has gone viral and lets one well-known local brewery to make a big change. Beth DeMann is a freelance journalist covering the story for vine pear and joins us on the round table. Hello Beth. Speaker 3: 01:27 Hi, thanks for having me. So this Speaker 1: 01:29 Really took off with the post on Instagram. Why was it posted and how Speaker 3: 01:33 So? Brianne Allen is a production manager at notch brewing in Salem, Massachusetts, and she was onsite at notches new brew house in progress in the Boston area. And it was really the first time in about a year that she had been in public as, as we all have been at home and on Tuesday while she was onsite, she was approached multiple different times by different men with just typically kind of misogynistic and sexist comments about what she was doing there. And is she the brewer, you know, are women really brewers and frustrated by that, uh, approach that those two men decided to take, especially after a year of not really having to deal with with sexism and beer. She took to her personal Instagram, which at the time had about 2200 followers and just asked, Hey, other women, have you ever experienced anything sexist or other sexist comments while working in beer? Speaker 3: 02:35 And what started as a trickle of stories of microaggressions, comments and assumptions from men to women turned into really a cascade of horrifying stories of violence, predatory behavior, harassment, toxic culture, uh, all the way up to sexual assault and rape so that this has been going for a little bit, uh, over a week now. And I'm not sure why this particular instance, uh, ended up being the catalyst for really to see change movement that we're seeing in craft beer across the country and world right now. But I'm personally bitter sweetly happy that people have decided to tune in. Speaker 1: 03:19 One of the breweries facing claims of abusive behavior is San Diego is modern times. What are, what are the allegations when it comes to modern times? And are there any other local companies being named Speaker 3: 03:29 Are number of other local companies being named, but certainly the most prominent is, is modern times. And first off I do want to mention that most of the allegations made on brands. Instagram are not concretely verified in any legal sense. Um, that being said, many of them have been independently corroborated by people who say they witnessed the behavior, but in modern times, this case specifically a number of their employees, uh, many of which were until recently, uh, in top leadership positions were alleged to have done things from perpetuating a toxic click-ish culture that really was in direct contradiction to what they very publicly espouses progressive values to things that serious as sexual assault. So ultimately the, the employees decided collectively, uh, seemingly that they were going to really take control of the situation. They are an Aesop, they are an employee owned company. And from what I saw yesterday, their location in Oakland, the employees there went on strike and the co-founder and CEO, Jacob McKean did step down from his role there. Speaker 3: 04:41 Um, they put out a lengthy response on their social media, on their website. And since the news came out, the responses are still pouring in some of the reactions I've seen the are questions as to the tangible changes. They say they're going to be doing moving forward. But as an employee owned company, it remains to be seen if he is truly divested from the shared ownership options in a financial way, uh, as well as if he will still have influence on decision making in the future. So, as I said before, modern times is just one of the breweries named, but I would argue they are the most prominent one that is, uh, being named in this, in this ongoing controversy. You've covered Speaker 1: 05:23 Food and beverage extensively for a variety of publications. Why do these barriers in this behavior exists? Is it something about the beer industry itself or more of a reflection on society at large? Speaker 3: 05:33 This is not unique to beer in any way, shape or form any male dominated industry. The women working in that industry are going to have very, very similar stories to what's going on right now. But there are two things that I think are different about the beer industry that sets this particular instance. Apart first off beer and especially craft beer does tend to attract a type of counterculture and people who aren't necessarily going to thrive in the typical nine to five jobs, add alcohol to that. And that really exacerbates the simmering problems that may lie dormant until a couple drinks are in your system. And so also, I mean, a lot of these places, a lot of these breweries, like a lot of hospitality locations are small teams, tight margins. They might not have HR support. They might not have avenues for people who feel that there is an issue or they are targeted or harassed or discriminated against. They don't have a lot of avenues to take that forward and make change. So those are a couple of things that I think might set the craft beer industry apart from other male dominated industries, but overarchingly, no, this is not a specific to craft beer problem. It's a society problem Speaker 1: 06:49 About some of the reactions to these stories. And many of them fall along the lines of not being surprised. Is there an appetite to change the industry's culture Speaker 3: 06:58 Considering that more than half of the world's population is women? I'd say there's a strong appetite to change a culture of violence against women. I do believe that this is a watershed moment for the craft beer industry at large one that was a long time coming and not least of which will take place right here in San Diego, because people do look to us as leaders, just even by the sheer number of people that we have. It's, it's an over $1 billion industry. So San Diego makes a big impact. And I think that our typical attitude of San Diego's willingness, we want to be very easygoing. We want to be very go with the flow. That's what San Diego is typically known for just speaking in very general terms and that kind of pervasive attitude towards toxic microaggressions really won't be tolerated anymore because for the first time, perhaps we've seen how this aggregation of microaggressions leads to really serious things happening, uh, on a regular basis towards women and other marginalized communities. Speaker 1: 08:03 And Brian Allen says her Instagram posts isn't about ruining careers or pursuing legal charges, but about giving people an outlet to share their experiences. Has there been any pushback? Speaker 3: 08:13 Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. She has been very transparent with the threats anonymous or not that she has received. And even I just in reporting on the story have started to get some messages in my inbox saying, you know, shame on me and things like that. But as somebody who has reported extensively on problems and beer for a number of years, this type of reaction is anything but surprising. But before publishing, I do tend to make sure I ask the outlet to run it past, to set a legalize and that there are specific phrases that are really important to use in these types of reported stories. So the pushback has been all talk so far. If any, any legal action is taken against participating in this movement that is still remaining to be seen. Speaker 1: 08:58 I've been speaking with Beth DeMann San Diego based freelance journalist for vine pear. Thank you, Beth. Thank you from the fight for 15 to protections during COVID-19 many Americans are rethinking the value and dignity of work. One slice of that is happening in the retail marijuana industry. Legal pot sales have been around for a few years in San Diego, and now the business side is maturing to the point of unionization. Jackie Bryant is a local freelance journalist covering this for voice of San Diego. And she joins us to talk about this big development. Hello Jackie. Speaker 3: 09:36 Hi Joe. Thanks for having me. Yeah, Speaker 1: 09:39 Thanks for being here. So the recent news deals with one local chain of marijuana retailers, March and Ash. How many workers are we talking about and who will be representing them? Speaker 3: 09:49 It's about 150 workers across three of the dispensary's four locations and UFC WWE local, one 35 will be representing them. They also represent healthcare, grocery and retail workers in, in San Diego. Got it. Speaker 1: 10:04 So union membership has declined from what earlier generations saw in the sixties and seventies. And many people might not be familiar with the benefits of a union offers. What's the value for these workers and taking this? Speaker 3: 10:18 You know, this is a loaded question, especially, you know, considering the fact that union membership has declined over time. But in general, I think we're seeing a greater tide of management, regardless of industry pivot into a kind of compassionate capitalism where they're expected to be better caretakers of their workers. And while that's nice, in theory, it gives management and opportunity to undercut union support because they're allegedly providing their own. So union membership shifts that care for management to the workers and by joining a union, they have greater bargaining ability because there's strength in numbers. They're also able to better set their own terms. So with this contract in particular, March Nash workers will subsidize education and childcare, guaranteed wage increases in merit bonuses, paid vacation, compassionate disciplinary procedures, and a unique employee equity program. That's unheard of in retail work in general, let alone dispensary work, um, whether pre or post legalization. And it's important to note that many of these workers were used to working in the illegal market before legalization. They worked at illegal dispensaries, et cetera. So not only are they not used to protection, you know, they're not used to any of these benefits. So it's, it's really notable for them. Speaker 1: 11:26 Jane is Asian. Hasn't been without some resistance by rank and file workers, right? And you talked with one mission valley employee who described some suspicion, uh, wait, why do you think that? So Speaker 3: 11:36 I actually talked to dozens of employees on background, including to the F uh, the two that went on record and most of them were for it, but some were against it. And many also talked about co-workers. They knew who were pretty strong against it, although it doesn't appear to be a huge block at all, but you know, it comes back to the cannabis industry and the culture around the industry, cannabis culture is distinct from other industries. You know, as I mentioned, it's only recently been legalized and within these workers, there's endless culture. There's a heavy skepticism of as many, you know, people would say skepticism of the man, these are workers who are, first of all, young, they probably don't have much experience with unions period. There's a lot of anti-union sentiment out there nowadays. And there's also in cannabis culture, a great distrust of authority owing to its longstanding illegality. Speaker 3: 12:23 And even though unions are seen as, you know, bucking the man to these workers, it can be all the same. Any kind of formality is typically viewed with skepticism. I don't think many people in the industry trust that any authority will ever truly be on their side. You know, so there's a strong individualist streak when, when facing authority in the cannabis industry, but there's an even stronger us versus them culture underneath. That's kind of secretive and it's sort of when you're in your end, but everyone else is out. So I think that last bit is what unions need to tap into to make organizing a success in the cannabis industry. And also, again, them being younger, it's kind of hard to get young workers jazzed about paying union dues and retirement plans and all of the kind of like quote unquote boring adult stuff. So that was also a large part. Speaker 1: 13:06 And aside from those benefits and protections for workers, does it move like this also bring added legitimacy to the marijuana industry? Speaker 3: 13:14 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. As I mentioned, you know, it, it is, um, an organized effort. It is a formalized effort. And I think in, you know, whether that's legalization, unionization or any other kind of legitimate organization putting their stamp on, on something in this industry, it has an immediate legitimising effect. I mean, again, this was an industry that three years ago was technically entirely illegal. You know, anybody working in it could go to jail and now they're joining a union. It's, it's kind of a whiplash actually. It's really fascinating to say so, yeah, it's incredibly legitimate. Speaker 1: 13:46 Now this agreement applies to retail workers, right? But the industry is segmented in three parts with sellers, growers, and distributors. Can those other parts of the production chain also unionized? Speaker 3: 13:57 You bet they can. And that's definitely a goal of UFC w um, you know, it's quoted in my story, uh, grant Tom, the sec Tresor treasurer said they want this to be the standard for the industry, regardless of segment. And they're able to, so in speaking with the OCW leadership, they did communicate that all of these segments are eligible and that they and other unions will seek to include them in future agreements. And I think people can think of it this way. If you can organize as the farmer, as a farmer, you know, working in the fields, picking fruit or vegetables, for example, why not as a cannabis farm field worker, it's, it's the same exact thing. The rollout Speaker 1: 14:31 Of legalized marijuana has been well-reported in San Diego, but how about Imperial county to our east, where one of these March and Ash sores is located, how's the market out there? Speaker 3: 14:41 It's an interesting market. Um, in some senses it's more friendly to the cannabis industry than ours is in San Diego. Like San Diego. There are still not enough dispensers for the population, which is a problem because when you limit access to cannabis to legal cannabis, the black market thrives San Diego has the exact same problem. We're far under capacity for how many dispensary licenses our population could support, but the regions politics and frankly, reefer madness attitude gets in the way sometimes. Um, and that's where the black, which is also called the unlicensed or illicit markets to reduce stigma are also so strong, the last available figures, but California's black market at around $11 billion in the legal market at around 3 billion. So that should tell you a lot about the ways legalization is playing out the industry and consumers, both think taxes are too high and licensing is severely hampered. Speaker 3: 15:29 I agree with them that plays out in Imperial county, as well as San Diego county and being a border region only strengthens these issues in the market. A lot of people from Mexico who are going to Mexico are coming back. They come to buy legal weed and cross back over with it, feeding another market there. So because it's not still not legal in Mexico, and what's grown in America is very high quality that creates a whole other layer to, you know, the unlicensed market. And, but where, um, Imperial is much friendlier than we are to the industry is cultivation just today. It was announced that a hundred acre growing facility, dispensary and consumption lands will be opening in the town of Heber. So we don't have cultivation in San Diego yet. So that's a huge difference right off the top. So Speaker 1: 16:13 We've been talking about these novel business types, like the marijuana industry, but how would you describe the health of the labor movement and unionization here Speaker 3: 16:22 In San Diego? You know, historically San Diego, hasn't been a particularly labor friendly town, which is surprising because we have a number of big industries here, right? And I think that as the tech industry continues to gain a foothold here, that will continue to be a problem. And it's something that, um, you know, workers and organizers need to keep their eyes and open eyes and ears open for. Um, but yeah, it's been a difficult climate here historically. And I think that that continues, there are a number of cultural factors, transient workforces, a large undocumented workforce. There are a number of impediments to organizing. Um, but I think, you know, because of COVID-19, people are starting to realize that maybe their working conditions aren't the best and, you know, maybe there is a way out of this. And so, you know, you're seeing kind of this upswing and interested in questioning, what's a union about what can it do for me? Speaker 3: 17:20 Oh, maybe, maybe that guy that I do work with, maybe we do have a lot in common and we need to band together. And I'm finding even just in, in San Diego and also beyond there is, um, there's been more of an upswing in, in, you know, just kind of wondering what kind of rights are out for them there and, and what kind of support unions can serve and can provide. So historically it's been difficult. It's been difficult everywhere to be honest, but San Diego has had a particularly long history with it. Um, I do think that may be starting to change. I think COVID has a lot to do with that. All Speaker 1: 17:51 Right. I've been speaking with San Diego based reporter Jackie Bryant. Thank you, Jackie, starting Monday, San Diego state university kicks off its commencement season. The class of 2021 will be awarded their degrees. The first class in more than a century to spend their senior year under a pandemic. Graduation is always a time for reflection, but there's a bit extra involved this year after so many obstacles were thrown at this particular group. Our guest is Katelyn Newin who spent this year leading the daily Aztec social media efforts. She's going to be taking over as editor in chief. Hello, Caitlin. Thanks for having me. Thanks for being here. So let's start with the events planned for next week. It'll include in-person ceremonies at Petco park. What should attendees expect? Yeah, Speaker 3: 18:42 So, um, each college of study will be having their in-person ceremonies on different days throughout may, 25th, 26th and 27th. And it's about two to three different colleges departments per day. And obviously, you know, the big question, social distancing guidelines will be in place and facial coverings are still required in order to attend. And that's part of why they had it at Petco park. There's a lot more space for everyone to distance themselves. And not only that, all of the ceremonies will also be available via zoom as well for unlimited on-demand viewing. So even for the people who can't make it in person, you know, they still can have that recording for later on. Speaker 1: 19:21 Cool. And those who missed out on last year's graduation events are being invited back, right? Speaker 3: 19:26 Yeah. I know that's like such a super exciting part of this, cause I know a lot of graduates from the past year have missed out on that. So graduates from the spring of 2020 and the winter are graduating from the winter semester of 2020 will also have the option to be a part of the in-person ceremonies, you know, since they couldn't due to the pandemic, how Speaker 1: 19:46 Much has this pandemic experience weighed on this class of graduates? So much of colleges is the social experience. So what have you heard from students? Speaker 3: 19:54 Definitely a big question. I feel like this pandemic has weighed immensely on this class of graduates in ways none of us could ever imagine we'd have to face. I mean, honestly, in my opinion, it's incredible and admirable that all the graduates attending the ceremony managed to finish their degrees and academic career after being tested and tried all throughout this pandemic. I feel like many students feel like they've missed out on a part of their lives, that they may never get back or replicate in another way. And I think the thing students are missing out on most is building those connections within their college community and creating lifelong relationships. A lot of the feedback I've heard from both friends and just students and classmates, it consists of feelings of relief, exhaustion, and overall anxiety as they enter an uncertain future post-graduation, which will continually be effected by the pandemic. I mean, it was hard to get a job before the pandemic, so I can imagine the feeling of trying to get a job after the pandemic, um, thereafter and during pandemic, I should say, Speaker 1: 20:56 San Diego state is expecting a full on campus experience in the fall. What's the sense of relief among returning students? Speaker 3: 21:03 Yeah. I mean, many are itching to get back me included and we're all really craving social interaction. I know, um, my editors and writers on the daily Aztec team, they're dying to get back into the newsroom and have that workplace community atmosphere and overall, uh, newspaper and workplace experience. Um, we're all hopeful about returning, but at the same time, we're apprehensive because the plans for next semester have changed so much as the state's reopening plans evolve. So we don't know for sure. And we're not trying to, you know, have the set plan in mind. We are trying to stay adaptable. And I know that some are very reluctant and fearful to return to in person classes. That's for sure, because of the whole vaccine hesitancy attitude that still persists. Uh, I know that from some of the students I've been talking to, some are even questioning if people will go as far as to forge their COVID-19 vaccine cards, to be able to go back to in person versus just getting vaccinated. Huh. Speaker 1: 22:00 And, and on the flip side, there are certainly people who have thrived with distance learning. Do you think there are some elements of pandemic life, at least when it comes to education that should stick around? Speaker 3: 22:11 Yeah. I definitely think keeping some classes remote or maintaining some type of virtual element for all classes would be beneficial to making education more accessible, to a wider range of students. Like for example, students who couldn't afford to live in San Diego previously, or students with disabilities, they had access to way more resources, both inside the classroom and a campus events, you know, hosted by different clubs and organizations. I feel like making that more of the norm livestreaming recording classes and events would ensure that we have more accessibility and education was important. Speaker 1: 22:45 Daily Aztec has been operating remotely since the pandemic started. What did you learn about your team? And what's possible as a journalist during this time, I learned Speaker 3: 22:53 That my team is resilient in ways I never thought were possible. We continued to push out content and adapt as the pandemic change our entire lives. I mean the video section, our video section created content without their studio or access to any of their normal equipment. And they even went as far as to use each other's backyards to film broadcast and whatever equipment they had on hand, like, you know, their phones and stuff like that. And the arts and culture section also pivoted a lot into covering pop culture related topics more as in-person events were all canceled or unable to transition to an online platform. Um, I just feel like journalists have always been durable, flexible, and persistent. We saw that in the past during the new media age and when everything switched to a more multimedia driven platform. And we're seeing that again right now during this pandemic, I feel like of our writers and editors covered the SCSU community without living in San Diego fairly well. And that would have been possible back in the day before zoom and everything else, internet related. Speaker 1: 23:55 And you'll be moving into a new role at the daily, I guess, editor in chief. What are your goals for the organization over the coming year? Speaker 3: 24:02 Biggest theme I have kept in mind while both planning and hiring my new staff is to remain flexible and ready to adapt to any change. Um, nothing's for sure yet, but it is looking like we will have the newsroom back and open to all editors and writers of course, with the mass requirement and the vaccine requirement pending FDA approval for us. But that could change over the summer. We don't know for sure yet. Um, we planned to have those meetings face to face again with the editorial board and with the entire staff. And I feel like that will increase effective communication and help us transition back to in-person work again. And we have to see, we have to budget for the print issues. We haven't had one since March, 2020, so that's going to be a big part of the summer and transition having many of the editors train and practice for that since we've, haven't had to put out one in over a year and I guess some major goals for the daily Aztec, as you know, in this upcoming year is to invest into our photo section more heavily to increase our visually driven content and to bring back the live broadcasts. Speaker 3: 25:03 We used to do that. I'm on Facebook live, but I'm thinking about transitioning it onto YouTube live so we can really get that experience of an actual on air, um, broadcast. Yeah. And I feel like above all else, it's more of like a, I just want to get my entire staff to have the best experience that they can and more hands-on, uh, journalism. Cause I know a lot of us miss that on, on the ground type of Speaker 1: 25:29 Work. I've been speaking with Caitlyn Newin social media editor for the daily Aztec. Thank you, Caitlyn, that wraps up this week's edition of the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, freelance reporters, Beth Demmon and Jackie Bryant and Caitlin Newin from daily Aztec. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen to anytime on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Joe Hong. Thanks for listening and join us next week. Speaker 2: 25:58 [inaudible].

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The leader of a local microbrew steps down after a social media post alleging an abusive culture in the craft beer industry goes viral, local marijuana retail workers unionize, and graduating seniors at SDSU prepare for commencement during a pandemic.