St. LOUIS – “InBev, we aren’t going to have a race to the bottom here,” said Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) to 1,000 Teamsters and their allies as they rallied here Aug. 16.
InBev, a Belgian-based multi-national that recently purchased Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion, is known around the world for its anti-union, slash and burn tactics. Nationwide, 12 Anheuser-Busch breweries that make half the beer consumed in the United States and employ 8,000 Teamsters are affected by the purchase.
Chip Roth, a leader of the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, said, “InBev has targeted workers’ wages and benefits in other countries. They have a history of taking care of the executives. Well, we are just as important.”
St. Louis residents are not accepting at face value InBev’s promises to maintain their city as the North American headquarters of the Budweiser brand, and keep all 12 U.S. breweries open with minimal job losses.
“I’m from Missouri, the Show Me State,” Carnahan told the crowd, “and I’m skeptical. InBev has to show us that it is going to keep its promises to the workers, to the union, to the retirees and to the community.”
Estimates are that Anheuser-Busch was worth $195 million in business to St. Louis last year alone and $985 million to the state of Missouri. The company paid $12 million in taxes to the city and employs 13,000 people in the state.
Another community concern is what will happen to the enormous philanthropic efforts made by Anheuser-Busch which last year donated $13 million to charitable organizations across the country. InBev has a history of cutting all non-core expenses and demanding tax breaks. It will likely eliminate or sell off Sea-World, Busch Gardens and other Anheuser-Busch properties that are of tremendous benefit to the public.
The Teamsters are cooperating with unions overseas in an attempt to pressure the company into doing the right thing.
Roger Van Vlasselaer, national coordinator of the largest InBev union in Belgium spoke at the rally and said, “We have to try to organize a global union structure in all InBev plants around the world. The InBev shareholders have already organized themselves. The unions need to organize on a global level as well. To InBev, only profits count, everything else is disposable.”
Siderlei Oliveira, president of Brazil’s 1.2 million member food workers union, said Brazillian workers have “very bitter” experiences with the company.
He said that when the company took over his country’s breweries it cut the number of them almost in half, from 23 to 13 and that it slashed the workforce from 23,000 to 9,000, with no cut in production. He said that the company treats workers as if they were in the military, rather than at a workplace.
Workers in Chile, Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic have had similar experiences, he said.