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Workers at Bend’s Crux Fermentation Project brewpub file petition to form union

(Update: Adding vide, comments from union organizer; statement from Crux)

While the outcome is uncertain, employees, company hope it'll be positive

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Employees at the Crux Fermentation Project brewpub in Bend say they want to have a say in decisions that affect them. A petition was filed recently, seeking to unionize about 20 restaurant workers, though not the company's beer-making brewery employees.

The National Labor Relations Board is reviewing the petition and filings made on the employees' and the employer's behalf.

The proposed Crux Front of the House Employees Union filed the petition to unionize with the NLRB on April 18.

The initial filing for a bargaining unit included 13 workers at the taphouse on Division Street. A vote, which the workers want to be conducted by mail, has not yet been scheduled.

A spokesman for the unionizing move said the effort has since expanded from the "front of the house" bartenders and bussers to now include back of the house employees, which include the dishwashers and cooks, a total of about 20 workers.

I asked the workers' spokesman, John Stewart, who has been with the company for nearly seven years, why they are interested in forming a union. He said employees have talked about the idea for years.

"I think the problem is that people are responding to is that management decisions are increasingly made entirely off-site, often by consultants who literally live on the East Coast," Stewart said. "We think that's had a negative impact on employees, and also guest experience as well."

Crux was founded in 2012 by former Deschutes Brewery brewmaster Larry Sidor, the Northwest Labor Press reported. Along with its taphouse, the company distributes its beers across Oregon and Washington and in parts of Idaho and California.

“We’re excitedly looking forward to our election,” a union spokesperson told the publication in a statement. “Once certified, it’s our hope that Crux will begin to take the input and concerns of our employees who directly contribute to the guest experience more seriously. We view this as an opportunity for all parties. It’s our hope that as we go into negotiations, Crux will meet us in a spirit of collaboration.”

Asked why the workers were seeking to create their own union for bargaining and not affiliate with an existing labor organization, Stewart told NewsChannel 21, "It is very important to us to make sure each employee's voice is heard. We had initially reached out to some existing unions, but we got the impression that with our relatively small size, we'd be a correspondingly small priority."

"In terms of our timeline, this had been years in the making," he said, "though everything is happening very fast all of a sudden."

While the idea has been years in the making and the outcome is uncertain, the hope is it will have a positive impact.

"We want to go into this thing as a spirit of collaboration," Stewart said. "We think that ultimately, this is going to be a positive impact for all parties involved at Crux, along with our guests and customers. We just hope that Crux can meet us in that collaborative effort."

Though no one was available to go on camera, Crux Fermentation Project Branding/Marketing Manager Jason Randles provided this company statement to NewsChannel 21:

“We support our team’s right to consider unionization and look forward to keeping the lines of communication open during the petition process. While we’re uncertain if unionization is the best path for us, we do look forward to the dialogue that comes from this. As a locally owned company, we will always remain focused on working closely as a team to ensure Crux is a great place to work – and a great place to enjoy our beer.”

The move comes amid increased efforts by workers to form or join unions across the country, most notably at numerous Starbucks locations.

NLRB records show Crux has retained the law firm Fisher Phillips, which said it helps businesses maintain their “union-free status” and manage “the challenges that come with a unionized workforce."

Meanwhile, Stewart shared an announcement Sidor made Friday to employees that he will be “stepping down from my minute-to-minute duties at Crux” at the end of the June, noting he turned 72 this year and that after nearly 50 years in the brewing business, “it’s time for the next chapter in my life.”

Sidor also noted that Crux celebrates its 10th anniversary in June and said Cam O’Connor will lead the business as managing director/brewmaster.

Below you can see the latest filing with the NLRB by a lawyer assisting in the unionizing effort, as they respond to the employer's earlier filing:

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

Comments

56 Comments

  1. Good luck. You all will need it. Unions are only really effective if it is industry wide. Union or. On, the laws of supply and demand rule all.

      1. Nah, no union necessary. We are travel nursing IN Oregon making 2-3 times what we made at st chucks. Glad to no be paying dues to the useless ona.

      2. I’d like to also point out your stupidity as well. When you or a loved one needs a elective surgery such as a total hip replacement or spinal surgery and st Charles keeps delaying it and all elective surgeries for up to a year (they still aren’t doing most elective surgeries/procedures), I bet you will wish you had us working so they can staff to schedule these procedures. You really have no clue what you are talking about.

      1. Really? I work a heavy civil construction job thst is prevailing wage. I make way more than the Union guys do. Their wage is less, because they pay reps to handle their healthcare and retirement. I handle my retirement, get free health care, and make $8-10 more an hour. You know?

      1. Owners or management hogging money so then the workers basically gang up to get more for themselves. Pretty simple. It’s pretty common activity in various parts of the economy.

  2. – shouldn’t be a problem for any business that pays a living wage and treats employees (the people who actually do the stuff that makes the money) properly – unfortunately, lots of puffed up egos push business plans that are absolute crap that rely on not doing those things with the only goal being personal enrichment – looks like a lot of the posters on this page are fans of the latter

      1. – enough to live on – how you call yourself “iKnow” then behave the way you do? – where do you get off making demands of anyone? – are you this puffed up when you face to face interact with other humans or is all this ego bluster just on the interwebs?

    1. They’d already make a “living wage” if it wasn’t for dumb liberals that vote for every single tax increase or fee put in front of them.

  3. Good news, they will be able to take the tip jar off the bar and cut out the tip line on their receipts as the new union wages will be cost of living level and patrons will no longer need for anyone to leave a 20% tip. We don’t tip the grocer clerk for putting the dice pack in a bag, so no really sure why there is an outdated expectation to give a tip at the brewery for the staff to do the same.

    1. If you do a bit of research, you will discover that virtually every attempt to eliminate tipping, in favor of higher wages, has failed in the U.S. Customers resent higher prices and want the bit of control that they think tipping gives them over service quality. Restaurants that have tried ‘no tipping’ policy invariably have lost customers and gone back to conventional model. my question is: unionization of small businesses with one or two stores is the tiny exception. Rarely happens. Also, with the high turnover of employees in the restaurant/brewpub business, how does the union retain its backbone, with different people in the union month to month? Is there something going on at this business that is not in the article, like resentment of owner (now pulling back)?

      1. You raise many valid points. As I reflect on your comment, in Bend, many of the long time locally owned restaurants/ pubs/ bars typically retain a majority of their workforce. There is turnover, but many of the staff are actually long time employees. I haven’t seen that as much at the franchise food places. I may be wrong in this assumption?

      2. Tipping is stupid. I love it when I go outside the U.S. and the price I pay is simply the exact price on the bill, with no extra charges. It should be the employer’s job to compensate their workers, not mine. It’s also more fair to the back of the house (kitchen) staff, who don’t benefit from the “tipping” nonsense.

  4. Boycott any union business. They are all corrupt and only care about money. Greedy liberals are destroying everything. They are why everything is so horrible.

    1. Back in the old days, before everything was so horrible…. there were even more unions and union members. Thats a fact.

      But keep on being a one trick pony.

          1. Most likely a four minute use period of time. But then he complains about slow service, sheet thread count, and room service fees after the first hour .. then attempts to negotiate the price down while threatening a bad yelp review.

    2. – unions built America – unions ARE America – you wouldn’t understand that because America is not about fascism – you’re going to have to take that attitude elsewhere

  5. I’m union, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Just stop with the whole idea of the company listening and collaborating, they hate you and would just as soon fire you as look at you. Your only strength is your solidarity, which they will try to weaken and break. Decide what you need, whether better pay, healthcare, sick time, vacation… whatever you need, then stick together. Don’t listen to the scabs on here, they all hate you too. Your living wage won’t bankrupt any company, it just makes it so the owners don’t get to buy a third pony for their daughter. Be strong!

    1. ” it just makes it so the owners don’t get to buy a third pony for their daughter.”

      Bingo. That pretty much applies to every instance where the wealthy are victimizing the poor and middle class.

      1. – you have made it clear that you are a shill for the oligarchy – is that you fancy the idea of becoming part of it? ——— there is endless laughter following you around

  6. If you don’t listen to your employees, these things will happen. When our business was fairly new and we had 3 employees, they decided that maybe they needed to be in a union. They didn’t really have any gripes, but they just figured it was the right thing to do. Then they finally figured out that they were getting pay and benefits that were better than any union shop around, the boss’s door was always open, and that the boss was always supportive when personal issues came up. They thought about it and then decided that maybe they had a pretty good deal and dropped the idea. Treat your employees right and these things don’t happen.

  7. “Fermentation Project brewpub” How hipster and cool is that? Um, I’ll stick with the usual white trash bar and tip higher while paying less for the non “I live in my parents basement so I have extra to buy hipster beer with” experience. LOL!

  8. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.

    Best wishes to you in your retirement Larry. You’ve earned it.

    1. Yep. Definitely a tourist trap place. The only time I go there is when out-of-town clueless visitors from Portland or someplace similar want to go there. I can’t believe what they charge for a pint. Same with Worthy.

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