Monday, July 31, 2006

workers beer company

Flavourless beers have to work harder to get themselves sold. They do this by getting associated with something that actually is worth paying money for, hence Budweiser's sponsorship of Glastonbury, or Carling's sponsorship of the Leeds and Reading Festivals.

If you've been to any of these, you'll have seen the bars run by the Workers Beer Company. WBC was set up by trade unionists, and the premise is simple and brilliant. They get good causes to send volunteers to staff the bars; the staff's wages are paid to the organisation that sent them. At the end of the year, WBC gives away all its profits to good causes.

It's one of those obvious positive Big Issue style ideas that, if it didn't exist, would sound great but surely impossible.

However, there's a dark underside and deep hypocrisy to the Workers Beer Company. Even without getting into debating whether supporting the Labour Party counts as a good cause. They only consider who's right in front of them.

You raise money for, say, your trade union by selling beer. That beer's manufacturer uses the profits on that beer to attack trade unions (as well as supporting Christian fundamentalists, anti-abortionists, homophobes and other bigots).

Whilst you sell the beer, you are made to wear a T-shirt promoting that vicious manufacturer. The T-shirt is made in a Bangladeshi sweatshop.

So, at the end of the day, have you made a positive or negative difference to workers rights and human dignity?

WBC made a big song and dance about the Left Field, their Fair Trade bar at Glastonbury. But it only highlighted the fact that they can buy Fair Trade, yet at all the other bars and all other festivals were flogging unfairly traded stuff.

They endorse the products of some of the most boycotted corporations on the planet. What they give with one hand, they take away with the other.

I've written an article about it all.

It's freshly published over at U-Know under the title Workers Beer Company: Pint Sized Ethics


Rob Jubb said...

U-Know needs an RSS feed...

merrick said...

Rob, you're dead right.

There's a Head Heritage RSS feed (which U-Know stuff gets included in), but we'll add one for each section of content for U-Know too.

We're gonna make a few other changes to make it easier and shinier. We'll make the Features sortable alphabetically, we'll make up 6 or 8 categories and have both Links and Features sortable by those, and put a Search function in too.