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AB InBev workers threaten beer drought from March

Beer shortages could begin from March if 5,000 workers at AB InBev-owned breweries do not have their requests met in the next 10 days.

The Teamsters union, representing the workers at 12 AB InBev-owned breweries in the US, has asked for wage increases, job security and improvements to retirement and benefits or has said that workers will strike when their contract expires on 29 February.

Last month, the workers voted 99% in favour of a strike authorisation and recently warned via X that “without a contract by February 29, there won’t be any beer come March”.

AB inBev brews beer brands including: Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Busch and Stella Artois and, according to reports, makes around a quarter of all beer drunk globally and made profits of over US$32bn in fiscal year 2023, a 1.97% increase from 2022, despite a slump in US sales following the boycott that followed Bud Light’s social media promotion with the transgender influencer with Dylan Mulvaney. Last October, AB InBev also announced a US$1bn stock buyback initiative over the next year and signed a high profile football contract as well as signing a deal to become the Olympics worldwide partner until 2028.

Teamsters president, Sean O’Brien accused AB InBev of “corporate greed” and said that “Teamsters inside these breweries will not be left to drown”. He urged AB InBev to “do the right thing” rather than “continue to burn hundreds of millions of dollars on massive sponsorships, stock buybacks, and CEO pay packages as it ignores the looming expiration” of the union’s contract.

Last week, the Teamsters National Negotiating Committee met in Washington, DC to put together a model agreement and this has now been reviewed by workers at the 12 breweries who voted to ratify it by 94%. Despite these efforts, however, AB inBev has remained silent on the proposals and negotiations.

Jeff Padellaro, director of the Teamsters Brewery, Bakery, and Soft Drink Conference, and the union’s negotiating committee, said that sadly the company has “failed to come to the table to address workers’ issues, so we want to make this process as easy as possible for these executives”. Padellaro highlighted how, even the workers’ union in this instance, has “done the hard work” and pointed out: “We’ve put together a model contract that resolves our issues, protects employment, and enjoys support across the membership” and urged “let’s get this thing done”. He admitted, however, that even if the management at the beer giant “can’t muster the respect to negotiate with workers face-to-face, the least they can do is respect our demands and sign on the dotted line”.

According to the Teamsters, writing on X, AB InBev has failed to meet with the union since 16 November, when the company refused to negotiate on job security.

A spokesperson for AB InBev stated that it “is aware of the Teamsters’ strike authorisation vote” and explained that this was “common” during negotiations. The spokesperson assured that the company has “a long-standing track record of reaching agreements” and will “look forward to resuming negotiations”.

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