UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
© Copyright 2013 UAW. All Rights Reserved.
Fresh air and sunshine are good for so many of the great things in life.
But one great thing that can do without either is beer. In fact, UAW Local 2308 workers at Miller Brewing Co. go as far as calling them "the enemies of beer."
That's why they work so hard to keep the 11 million barrels they brew each year in packages that keep out light and air.
Jerry Jackson spends a great deal of time looking at and smashing beer cans. Those cans protect the beer as it makes its way from brewery vats to hoses connected to the filling machines to packaging, pallets, trucks and trains, distribution centers, stores and the consumer.
Cans that have the tiniest imperfection can cause oxygen to seep in, giving the beer a shorter shelf life. Bad-tasting beer is no way to maintain and grow Miller's customer base.
"We check the pressurized ring to make sure it's smooth and round," the 13-year veteran worker said. "We make sure the seal doesn't leak."
The workers who get the beer into packaging and out the door at this Trenton, Ohio, brewery are proud UAW members who want people to know that a lot of hard work goes into getting the suds to market.
Local President Jeff Potts said the plant, which opened in 1991, operates under a "team" concept. Each morning there's a meeting to discuss what product will be brewed and which team member will perform which task. Safety is always the first item on the agenda. Tasks are rotated regularly, so there's a lot of cross-training.
"Management pretty much lets us run the operation," Potts said. "The company tells us what to produce and we decide how we're going to do it."
And why not? After all, the brewery has won three consecutive "Freddies," the corporate award named after founder Frederick J. Miller that is given out to the brewery that does best on a number of factors, including cost per barrel, safety and efficiency.
Potts said the bargaining committee will no doubt bring up the three Freddies as it prepares to negotiate a contract later this year.
"We will make that message loud and clear," he said.
The plant brews and packages many brands of beer, including the Miller product line, Milwaukee's Best, Leinenkugel, Old English 800 and some competitors under contract.
Since Miller entered into a joint venture with Coors, becoming MillerCoors LLC in 2007, the plant produces Coors Light and Keystone Light, which means if you see either in the Midwest or large portions on the East Coast, it's likely brewed by Local 2308 members.
"People need to know that," said Robin Pink, a 16-year maintenance technician and the local's Community Action Program representative. "It's one of our best-kept secrets."
"It's union beer when it's made here," added Ron Dalton, a 13-year maintenance technician.
And that's a lot better slogan than any ad agency could ever dream up.