Forty Years Ago This Week: A four-year AFL-CIO directed strike against Coors Brewery that had resulted in stagnant sales led Bill Coors to write in a company-wide publication, “Due to organized labor, a number of beer consumers dislike us enough to discontinue buying our beer.”
Colorado labor leaders had called for the strike after being made aware of policies at the brewery including: Forced lie detector tests, car searches, physical medical evaluations and efforts to eliminate long-standing worker protections.
Coors’ practices had caused several non-union groups to join the strike including the Mexican-American Political Association and the National Congress of American Indians.
The NCAI joined the strike after large Coors monetary contributions to the Mountain States Legal Foundation were made public. The MSLF had directed nationwide efforts to negate treaties with several tribes after their land values had skyrocketed due to recently discovered mineral deposits.
Several members of the Coors family objected to the business being drug into political affairs.
In June 1981, industry newsletter Beer Marketers Insights reported that Coors wholesalers were “so upset that a wholesalers panel unanimously requested Coors sign up with the union … every Coors wholesaler who discussed this topic, without exception, was appalled at the direction that the company was taking, the marketing stances, and the political stories. Many of the wholesalers are worried about whether there will be a Coors in the future.”
Steve Bieringer, field representative for the AFL-CIO reported that the purpose of the boycott was not to put Coors out of business but “to bring about recognition of certain human rights of his employees and the public, generally.”
In addition Bieringer said, “…the rights of people to know where a company or a person stands. Not to be talked out of both sides of the mouth. Not to be subjected to multi-million dollar advertising campaigns that seek money from a constituency and use it against them.”
Twenty Years Ago: State Rep. Peter Groff, D-Denver, wrote to The Colorado Statesman to express his dismay and frustration after the outspoken conservative state Rep. David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said he was in opposition to reviewing bias in criminal justice system.
“Having never attended a meeting of the Interim Committee on Criminal Sentencing or the comprehensive Disparity Subcommittee,” Groff wrote, “Rep. Schultheis ignored the real issues at hand, simplistically and dangerously dismissing any possible racial bias as something minorities have ‘brought upon themselves.’”
Groff wrote that Schultheis had lumped minorities together and that he had said minorities were “over represented” in the prison system as a result of being raised in single-parent homes, under-funded schools and under-developed neighborhoods.
“If Rep. Schultheis had participated in a discussion on the issue, he would know that we are not attacking the criminal justice system; we are looking for answers,” Groff wrote. “Rep. Schultheis said I ‘should know better than to blame the justice system’ … I don’t need paternalistic disrespect. I need people who aren’t afraid to talk about the all the possible reasons for minority over-representation in the state Department of Corrections and work for real solutions to those problems.”
Rep. Groff was the founder and executive director of the University of Denver’s Center for African American policy and sat on the House Criminal Justice and Education Committees.
Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and The Gazette.