A new documentary released by the New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees (NBUPPE/NUPGE) provides an inside look at the 38-day lockout of workers at Moosehead Breweries in Winter 2011 and the union's innovative approach to settle the dispute.
Ottawa (22 Feb. 2012) – Drink ‘Em Dry is a documentary just released by the New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees (NBUPPE/NUPGE). The film is an inside look at a 38-day lockout of 172 workers at Moosehead Breweries (Local 362) in Winter 2011.
The documentary explores the innovative ways the union and its members were able to win public support for their cause while not vilifying the employer, and looks at the lessons that can be learned from the union’s outside-the-box approach to the dispute.
Sheldon Garland, an employee at the brewery and graduate of the Vancouver Film School, created the documentary along with Tom Mann and Jon Mann, who wrote and produced the 48-minute film.
“It’s not a knock’em down, drag’em out story of a labour dispute,” Tom Mann said. “It’s more about how you get to a win-win solution.”
The Moosehead lockout was the result of an impasse regarding a long-held benefit the company said it could no longer afford.
Rather than respond by calling for a boycott of Moosehead products, the union determined it could gain greater leverage over the company and entice them back to the bargaining table sooner by encouraging people to buy more beer, which would deplete the company’s stock.
It was not only strategic, Tom Mann noted, but reflective of the pride employees had in their product – a fixture in Saint John since 1867.
“They figured that as soon as the plant was bone empty – that was the expression they used, ‘bone empty’ – they were going to get asked to go back to the bargaining table. And sure enough, that’s what happened,” said Tom Mann.
But it wasn’t just a win for labour. In the end, a deal was struck that kept the contested benefits package for employees but changed the way the fund was structured, which benefited management.
That’s why Mann and the others were compelled to share the story.
The documentary recently premiered at Harvard University before an international audience of labour leaders.
Narrated by New York Times best-selling author Raj Patel (author of “Stuffed and Starved” and “The Value of Nothing”), the film features interviews with Steve Earle; Dropkick Murphys founder Ken Casey; Elaine Bernard, executive director of the Harvard Law School’s Trade Union Program; economist Rob Moir (University of New Brunswick), James Clancy, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees; and members of Local 362.
There’s also a teacher’s guide to accompany the documentary with modules which Mann hopes will be used in high school and university classes to teach people about leadership, democracy, critical thinking and solidarity.
You can watch clips from the film and download support materials at this link: www.nbu.ca/drinkemdry .
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE