If you shop for Friday night provisions at Trader Joe’s, you may have noticed protests and secretly placed fliers urging you not to purchase six packs of Josephsbrau, Black Toad Ale or Stockyard Oatmeal Stout. That’s because those beers are made by the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, which has become a target in a longstanding labor dispute between the Culinary union and Station Casinos.
The Culinary recently launched its “Trumper Joe’s” campaign demanding that Trader Joe’s stop selling beer brewed by Gordon Biersch. According to the union’s press release, “Trumper Joe’s” is a year long, nationwide campaign.
The pretext for this public pressure campaign? The owners of Gordon Biersch supported Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016. Of course, many people with ownership interests in many things did the same. So why single out a few sudsy beverages for criticism along with one of the retailers that sells them?
Well, it turns out there’s a lot more to the story than just a political dispute. In fact, the Culinary’s ploy is just the latest tactic in a years long campaign against Station Casinos, which, as coincidence would have it, is under the same ownership as Gordon Biersch.
The union wants Station Casinos to waive their employees’ right to vote in a secret-ballot representation election conducted by the federal government and instead allow for a so-called card check certification. Under card check, union organizers could pressure employees to sign cards, in public, indicating their support for the Culinary. Targeting unrelated third parties such as Trader Joe’s in the hope of damaging their relationship with Station owners is one of the Culinary’s favorite schemes to achieve this outcome.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Culinary has used scorched-earth tactics against Station Casinos to get what it wants; indeed, that is the union’s pattern.
For instance, during the time when the owners of Gordon Biersch also owned the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Culinary pressured arenas to exclude the UFC from their facilities. It also lobbied New York state not to legalize mixed martial arts (as 49 other states have done), and it pressured Coca-Cola to drop its partnership with Monster Energy Drinks, another interest of the same business owners. The campaigns against these third parties were all based on supposed concern for the public interest — a concern Culinary officials forgot about once the business changed hands.
In addition to pulling third-party businesses into its corporate campaign vortex, the Culinary has also used the power of the federal government to pressure Station Casinos. For example, the union has filed hundreds of frivolous complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, a dubious anti-trust complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and an equally dubious letter to the Federal Reserve questioning Deutsche Bank’s filing with the federal government about its investment in Station.
Perhaps the most despicable aspect of the Culinary’s campaign is that it is not limited to attempts to affect Station Casinos and its owners’ businesses; the union’s efforts are targeted to harm Station Casinos’ employees — the very individuals the union claims it wants to represent.
The union has called for boycotts of Station Casinos and pressured customers to take their business elsewhere. On numerous occasions, the union has contacted convention organizers threatening to disrupt their events with picket lines and unruly demonstrations.
Those efforts have cost Las Vegas convention revenue from business driven out of the state altogether. The jobs and the local businesses that revenue might have supported are just collateral damage to the Culinary union.
Ultimately, the “Trumper Joe’s” campaign is yet another sad chapter in the union’s efforts to strip employees of their right to a secret ballot election. That ought to help guide your decision on which six pack to grab the next time you shop at Trader Joe’s.
Sean P. Redmond is executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.