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Workers at Indeed Brewing Co. Just Formed a Union

Semi-remarkably, workers and management appear harmonious with the decision.

United Here Local 17|

Happy Indeed workers celebrating their freshly formed union with supporters.

This ain't Michael Nuss's first brewery unionization rodeo. The Minneapolis bartender was working at Surly Brewing Co. in 2020 right before workers there fell one vote shy of unionizing, snuffing out a labor drive that spurred allegations of union-busting that Surly can't shake to this day.

Nuss has worked at Indeed Brewing Co. the past couple years, and says the atmosphere around its recent labor actions has felt much different, as has the resolution: This week around 80% of the brewery's 32-person hourly workforce signed union cards with Unite Here Local 17.

"This process has been so different from the Surly campaign; back then our backs were against the wall, and they dealt with us like we were a poison in the company," Nuss reports. "It seems like they're listening to us at Indeed, and I'm so excited. This is the perfect place, with this amazing group of people, to join together."

Adds Sheigh Freeberg, secretary-treasurer with United Here Local 17: "I am extremely proud of these workers and glad that Indeed Brewing has agreed to respect their workers’ decision." Indeed management have indeed signaled their support through a labor peace agreement.

"Indeed has always prioritized the people who make this company run. When it became clear that our people desired to organize, we were excited to honor that next step toward a better workplace," Ryan Bandy, Indeed's chief business officer, says in a statement. "We’ve seen a lot of change at Indeed in the 12 years since we opened, and we’re looking forward to working together to usher in this next phase of Indeed.”

If and when all the procedural hurdles are cleared, Indeed will become Minnesota's third unionized brewery, joining its Northeast neighbors, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, and Schell's Brewery in New Ulm. (Read about Fair State's plans to fight through bankruptcy here.) Workers at both breweries are represented by Unite Here Local 17, the Minneapolis-based hospitality union that reps around 6,000 people employed stadiums, airports, and restaurants; the union has bet big on the craft service industry in recent years, yielding wins (Fair State, Brother Justus, Indeed), losses (Surly, Vikre Distillery, Spyhouse Coffee), and some TBDs.

To anyone who has paid attention to service industry sentiments since COVID-19, the grievances that pushed Indeed workers toward unionizing should sound familiar.

"Almost everybody felt powerless, like they didn't have a voice at the table," Nuss says. "The vibes could not be better today."

Kiersten Carlson, Indeed's lead bartender, has been with the company for eight years. She says she wasn't surprised the bosses chose a cooperative path.

"It's already a great place, it just could be better, and I just want to make it the best place it can be," she says. "I've always felt our management was pro-union in their personal lives, but ya know, maybe needed a push."

Correction: A previous version of this story suggested Nuss was working at Surly during the failed '20 union vote. "That is not accurate," Elise Bartlett, Surly's head of marketing, tells Viraluae via email. "He was not an active employee at the time and was deemed ineligible for the vote based upon the mutually agreed upon terms between United Here Local 17 and Surly. He did not participate in the process or the vote." Freeberg views the situation slightly differently. "[Nuss] was furloughed right before we went public," he says, "but continued to be a central part of the organizing and a large part of the fight was to get him his job back." Bartlett challenges that timeline, and says Nuss was offered his job back.

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