Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Great Lakes Brewing Company Workers Take Steps to Unionize with United Steelworkers

Posted By on Mon, Jul 12, 2021 at 1:54 PM

click to enlarge Helluva logo, GLOC - COURTESY GLOC
  • Courtesy GLOC
  • Helluva logo, GLOC

Production workers for Great Lakes Brewing Company, the oldest and largest craft brewery in Ohio, signed union cards at the United Steelworkers union hall Sunday in a declaration of their intent to unionize.

An internal organizing committee had been working through the ebbs and flows of the pandemic to build support for a union. And after talking with a number of local chapters, the committee voted to affiliate with USW for its rich history in Northeast Ohio, its democratic processes and its abundance of resources for local workers.

Signing union cards is the first step in the unionization process for the workers who staff the GLBC warehouse, drive the trucks, brew and bottle the product and maintain the facilities. (This does not encompass restaurant workers at the Great Lakes brewpub.) The cards signal to the National Labor Relations Board that the workers want to have a union election.

The NLRB will now seek an election agreement between Great Lakes and the union to coordinate next steps.

"We feel very good about where we're at right now," a member of the Great Lakes Organizing Committee (GLOC), who requested anonymity, told Scene. "The overwhelming majority of workers love working at Great Lakes. We wouldn't be doing this otherwise. A lot of people think that unions are a referendum on working conditions, but for most of us, it's about making a good place to work a great place to work."

The GLOC member said that the benefits at Great Lakes were why many workers have elected to stay there, even if they might be able to command higher wages elsewhere. Preserving those benefits in a formal union contract was important for many who signed cards, as was having an actual seat at the table in company decisions. (Great Lakes, which was founded in 1986 in Ohio City, is technically "employee-owned.") 

The committee is hopeful that Great Lakes will voluntarily recognize the union and respect the desire to have a fair union election. The committee also believes that the union effort could be a catalyst for unionization at other microbreweries, or even a craft beer labor movement. Regardless, the committee believes the effort would produce a windfall of good will in the region.

"Yes this is about giving us a voice, but we also feel that a union would be good for [Great Lakes'] business," the GLOC member said. "People are going to love buying union-made craft beer in Cleveland."

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

Tags: , , , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 6, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation