Takeover Bid Brews Trouble for Bud Teamsters

June 20, 2008: Teamster members at Anheuser-Busch are worried about the future of their jobs after Belgian beer giant InBev announced its plans for a takeover on June 11.

Anheuser-Busch is the largest beer maker in the United States. InBev and A-B are two of the four largest brewers in the world—and together they would be the biggest, by far.

InBev already owns the Canadian brewer Labatt’s, another Teamster employer.

Local 1149 member Katie Brutcher says members are worried about their jobs: “InBev doesn’t have a good reputation. They buy companies and then put the burden on their new employees to pay off all the debt they take on.

“We don’t want to give up our working conditions or our benefits for them.” Brutcher is a skilled-trades Teamsters at AB’s Baldwinsville, N.Y. brewery.

Industry analysts agree: Ann Gilpin, an analyst for Morningstar, calls the people who run InBev “a bunch of machete-wielding investment bankers who go around and cut costs wherever they can.”

Takeover Likely?

The takeover drew high-level criticism almost as soon as it was announced. Both of Missouri’s U.S. Senators and the state’s governor expressed concern over the deal. One Senator is asking the Justice Department to scrutinize the deal.

But anti-trust law probably can’t block the takeover, since most of InBev’s market is outside of the U.S.

InBev is offering $65 a share, and many shareholders are likely to take the deal. A-B stocks were trading at only $58.35 before InBev announced the move.

The founding Busch family still runs the company, but they only own 3.5 percent of the company’s stock—not nearly enough to stop a takeover. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who owns 5 percent of A-B, has endorsed the deal.

New Contract in 2009

Talks for the next contract at Anheuser-Busch start next year. If the takeover goes through, that could give InBev a chance to go after our Teamster wages, pensions and benefits if members are not organized and prepared.

“It’s up to us to stop corporate greed,” Brutcher said. “We have to get ready now to hold the line to protect our jobs and our benefits—and to save the pride we have in what we brew.”

Now is the time for members to get informed and organized, and Teamsters for a Democratic Union can help. TDU sponsors workshops on how to get members involved in winning a strong contract.

Contact us for advice on how to get other members involved in the union, or to set up a workshop in your local.

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