Responding to criticism amid a nationwide movement for racial justice, the Brewers Association updated its governance documents to be more proactive against any form of racism among its members.
The Brewers Association, which represents small and independent brewery owners, addressed criticism that its response to racist incidents within its membership was insufficient by instituting its first-ever code of conduct.
“The code of conduct codifies our commitment and responsibility as an industry to comply with state and federal regulations and to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and bias of all types,” said BA president and CEO Bob Pease in a message to members. “We take our leadership role seriously and recognize that we must be actively anti-racist.”
Under the code’s respect for individuals and groups section, BA specifies that members must “treat all individuals and groups respectfully, recognizing their human dignity, regardless of their diverse human characteristics: race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or mental disability, size or appearance, genetic predisposition, religion, ancestry, national origin, or veteran status.”
Members must also “contribute to a positive environment that is free of hostile and offensive behaviors,” including harassment. The code defines harassment as “any unwelcome and inappropriate verbal or physical conduct, or coercive behavior, where the behavior is known or reasonably ought to be recognized as unwanted or unwelcome.”
While the craft beer industry comprises more than 8,000 breweries, it has long been made up mostly of white men. Eighty-eight percent of brewery owners are white, and only 1 percent are Black, according to BA’s 2018 Brewery Operation Benchmarking Survey.
Racist treatment of Black employees at several breweries has been reported in the past year. Earlier this summer, the CEO of BA’s member brewery 56 Brewing, based in Minneapolis, resigned after allegations that “he tied a rope to look like a noose and waved it at a Black employee,” according to The Growler.
Last fall, Founders Brewing and former employee Tracy Evans reached a settlement in a racial discrimination lawsuit Evans filed against the Michigan-based brewery. In the lawsuit, Evans, who is Black, alleged that Founders fostered a “racist internal corporate culture,” one in which several coworkers uttered racial slurs in his presence.
The code of conduct calls for members to “speak out without fear of retaliation when the actions of others violate the rights of any individuals or groups,” “respect the opinions of others and address conflicts in a positive and constructive manner,” “respect others’ privacy in their personal lives,” and “treat all individuals and groups professionally and respect their personal property.”
BA next plans to create a member complaint process. “The intent of the complaint process is to hold our peers accountable for unacceptable behavior while pursuing an educational path forward that leads to a more inclusive and respectful craft beer community,” Pease said.