Will Work for Beer: Volunteering in the Brewing Industry Offers Advantages Along With Risks

Discussion in 'Article Comments' started by BeerAdvocate, Nov 3, 2017.

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  1. BeerAdvocate

    BeerAdvocate Admin (16,842) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts

  2. BeanBump

    BeanBump Zealot (573) Dec 14, 2016 California

    Im sort of torn on this. I can see how volunteering in craft brew helps whatever brewery you volunteer at but I feel like simply buying their beer has the same effect, as you're contributing to their profit either way but just buying relieves the brewery from any potential workplace injuries.
    Duckaduck likes this.
  3. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (262) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    I'm not torn. It is unethical, should be illegal. I worked in the beer industry for almost 10 years, never in an unpaid position. The practice harms wages and allows inefficient businesses to continue to exist at the expense of the market at large. I refuse to buy from any brewery that uses this practice.

    From the story: “Any way you can watch your overhead allows us to spend more money on research and development, buying different types of hops, and really focusing on our beer,” Chapman says. “Through the volunteer program, we’ve noticed that we can tap into the community and people that feel strongly [about] what craft is all about.” Sorry bro, run a better business. If you can't afford to "do R&D" AND pay your workers, you need to rethink your business model.

    Pay your workers. End of story.
  4. BeanBump

    BeanBump Zealot (573) Dec 14, 2016 California

    Maybe Im interpreting you wrong but you seem to be borderline attacking me. I actually advocated that people should just buy beer instead of volunteer. I'm "torn" because I get that people want to help and be part of it but I'm not convinced its actually helping. Also, I dont work in beer.

  5. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (262) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    Nope! Sorry it read that way. I'm attacking businesses that utilize this practice. I totally get your statement, which is absolutely reasonable.
    moose1980 and BeanBump like this.
  6. BeanBump

    BeanBump Zealot (573) Dec 14, 2016 California

    Right on. We're in full agreement. I dont know why this isnt illegal.
    Alexmc2 likes this.
  7. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (886) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I've never been in more agreement with anything ever.
  8. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (3,148) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Great article. I agree with the general sentiment thus far... If you're for-profit, pay workers a living wage. If your brewery wants to use volunteers, incorporate as a nonprofit and put any and all profits directly back into the community.
    Duckaduck likes this.
  9. Sabtos

    Sabtos Poo-Bah (8,082) Dec 15, 2015 Ohio
    Society Trader

    I hate in general how this country has turned into this free labor, "internship-opportunity" focused society where very few people actually get those thankless, unpaid "jobs," and the paid, immeasurably invaluable and enriching apprenticeships I'd heard about my parents generation enjoying are almost unheard of. Knowledge does not seem to be passed down to the new workforce like it used to be. My cynical mind can kind of see how massive corporations found it acceptable to start squeezing college grads for whatever they could, but now we're talking about new small businesses and startups following the same blueprint? Not a fan.
  10. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,389) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey

    I was a volunteer for 6 months at a brewery with the idea that when they grow ill have 1st dibs on a spot and gain knowledge in the meantime. I was taken advantage of and unappreciated. This is just my experience that around my area brewers are tight nit and unless you know somebody, your chances are pretty low. My beer server cert gave me the benefit of the doubt but in the end was not worth working for them for multiple reasons INCLUDING sexism towards me and if you know me, im "silent bob" i dont say a word while working and i really can care less what people do in their lives. Was uncalled for.
    mpayne5, mikeinportc, FBarber and 6 others like this.
  11. Efoss

    Efoss Initiate (0) Nov 1, 2017 Minnesota

    I'm pretty new to the industry and I had no idea this was something that even happened, it seems like such an outdated concept (although when I think about unpaid internships, maybe not), but interesting. And well written. I'm interested to see how and when this advances in terms of legal action.
  12. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (10,002) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Society Trader

    If I were retired and financially able to not be paid to do something fun, and if I had a friend starting a brewery, it would be huge fun to help out and learn. That said, having been in management and having a management degree, I realize that it is a huge liability risk and should a workplace accident occur, it would open the brewery up to fines and lawsuits.

    Consider what would happen if a volunteer taptender over-served someone who came in obviously drunk - and that customer left and ran someone over. That would be quite the interesting and business-killing lawsuit which no liability insurance would cover.
  13. offthelevel_bytheplumb

    offthelevel_bytheplumb Devotee (410) Aug 19, 2013 Illinois

    Like what?
  14. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,389) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey

    The owners of the brewery were part of LGBT community ill say it like that. And i quote "do you have a girlfriend? Because i do. Do you have a problem with that?" Said in an aggressive way on seperate occasions also during the interview. Also every time i was putting the fermenter back together or actually anything, "you manhandle this part with your man hands?" I know the difference between a joke and not. Im not a sensitive person and i actually dont care, but these things were unprovoked and said in a demeaning way. I was also talked to like i was stupid and wasnt allowed to talk to the brrwer more than a minute for whatever reason and excluded from many things like release parties and recipe creations. I eventually took as as sexist because i was the only male there out of 30? and there was a lot of things. I understand the state of the world doesnt favor women and that sucks but thats not me.

    They make excellent beer and are hospitable with it. But im not going to work when i have been talked to like that.
    Chaz, FBarber, JackHorzempa and 4 others like this.
  15. Uniobrew31

    Uniobrew31 Zealot (525) Jan 16, 2012 Pennsylvania

    The only brewery that you are allowed to work at unpaid is one your kitchen.

    Internships can be unpaid but only if they are part of a bonified curriculum. Somebody is going to get nailed by the DOL over this practice and owe a ton of backpay.

    That being said I can't imagine why anyone would volunteer at a for profit business. How did this even become a thing?
    bbtkd likes this.
  16. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Champion (808) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    I’m not down with unpaid internships. And things like working actual production jobs e.g. packaging, and not getting paid for it is horrific.

    Breweries are dangerous places. You are exposed to extreme heat and cold, chem, pressure, dangerous gasses, and sometimes lasers, X-rays, radiation, etc. Plus equipment hazards, forklifts...
    It is NOT a place for untrained labor, and labor, trained or untrained, needs to be paid. People get killed at breweries. It is not a joke.

    That said, I am a believer in the barter system. If I have beer, and you have welding equipment, and I need an emergency weld, which you will accept a couple cases of beer for. I don’t think a cash injection is necessary to make it a fair transaction.

    Basically, it’s not an entirely black and white situation.

    Also, this thread made me think of this:
    FBarber, raynmoon, ManBearPat and 5 others like this.
  17. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,430) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    I can see how different scenarios might play out but I think the central issue is whether a specific volunteer is being exploited.
    VABA and drtth like this.
  18. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (886) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I'm in awe that you made it past the interview. I certainly wouldn't have.
    FBarber, Harrison8 and Urk1127 like this.
  19. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Meyvn (1,389) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey

    I try hard to be patient. I used to be a very angry aggressive person. I figure if i just relax and blow it off i get to learn. I was wrong in both ways. Like everything else the brewing industry has assholes too. I hope those who persue it dont run into roadblocks like i did.
    Chaz likes this.
  20. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (886) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    There's a MUCH larger percentage than most people, especially on sites like this, would like to realize.
    videofrog, FBarber and Urk1127 like this.
  21. dauss

    dauss Zealot (597) Aug 9, 2003 Colorado

    There are numerous brewing related programs in Colorado and part of that program is to intern at a brewery to get experience. Not only does the intern have to pay tuition, they would not be compensated by the brewery hosting the intern. In addition, the school provides insurance for the student during this time.

    When there are so people that want to volunteer with no commercial experience, it's difficult to determine which are truly passionate about commercial craft brewing and those who simply like the idea of it.
  22. flabeer

    flabeer Initiate (103) May 22, 2007 Florida

    Well, you’re not buying much beer then, are you? This industry is built on the backs of volunteers. No one is forced to volunteer or treated poorly. Quite the contrary, My volunteers are compensated for 3 hours work with lunch, open taps and 6 750’s to take home. Basically a $80-$100 value for three hours.
    Everybody has a great time!
    ManBearPat likes this.
  23. flabeer

    flabeer Initiate (103) May 22, 2007 Florida

    So, I guess all of the naysayers also don’t volunteer at beer festivals either. They are just as “for profit” as any brewery.
  24. bsullivan

    bsullivan Initiate (82) Aug 17, 2017 Connecticut

    I believe that there are certain breweries that do "volunteering" correctly. Newport Storm is a great example. Work the bottling line for 2 hours or make cases, drink beer while doing it and also walk away with a free 6er at the end.
  25. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (262) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    Everybody has a great time until they get hurt on the line. Workers comp doesn't cover volunteers. Open taps sounds like a liability issue if you're talking about during a shift.

    Under-capitalized breweries are built on the backs of volunteers. If you think you could go to a bank or a 'real' investor with a business plan that says: "volunteer labor" somewhere on it, you'd never get funding. If you need temporary labor, hire temps, if you need part time folks, there would be plenty of applicants. There isn't a labor shortage in this industry, as evidenced by the folks apparently lining up for 'free' beer.

    I'm not saying you're running a Vietnamese fishing trawler with slaves from Burma. Just saying, run your business like a business and not a charity.
    Chaz, JackHorzempa, FBarber and 4 others like this.
  26. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,080) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    These small brewers promote themselves as "job creators" and have no problem going to the Congress begging for a reduction in the Federal Excise Tax they currently pay - $7/bbl - which adds up to around 2¢ a bottle which retails for $1-2 and up. (After Repeal, when beer retailed for 10¢ bottle, the FET was $5/bbl. - not many taxes are 1/10 of what they were in 1933).

    But, turns out there's a catch to these "jobs" they're creating - we can't be so naive as to expect them to be paid positions.:rolling_eyes:
    Chaz, FBarber, JackHorzempa and 2 others like this.
  27. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Poo-Bah (9,193) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
    Moderator Society Trader

    I think most of us on the site recognize the difference between commercial internships that are part of an education/degree program (where the internships are associated with a school and there is tuition/credits and insurance involved) vs. the other type... When a business is dependent on volunteer labor for important tasks, it makes you wonder about the viability of the business plan.
  28. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Champion (808) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Lots of festivals raise money for charity. Lots of charity events use unpaid volunteers to run the thing. That’s a different conversation that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with beer.

    Also, I think there’s a big difference between pouring pints for a couple hours and walking away with a sore back and shoulder...vs driving a forklift for free.
    Chaz, FBarber, Sabtos and 1 other person like this.
  29. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (2,124) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Society Trader

    I am torn on this, no one is putting a gun to a persons head to work for free. Maybe the person wants to get some on the job experience, maybe they want to see if they like this sort of work, etc. I think we need to view this for what it is, a short term fun position to get your hands wet and in turn score some beers and food. What if the person does not care about the money, they just wanted to work in beer and took the chance to do this. I think a lot of posts imply the person is obligated to work for free or else? I am sure its a position they can end at any time, most keep it because they probably have a blast.
    Anyway, I am totally open to it since its voluntary. You can come and go at will... I would bet money most people doing this are early 20s and looking to have fun and get some beer, I don't see the down side since no one will do this for very long.
    Harrison8, flabeer and Squire like this.
  30. flabeer

    flabeer Initiate (103) May 22, 2007 Florida

    Most festivals will donate 5-10% to charity. The rest, after expenses, goes into someones pocket. There is no difference. They're both volunteering in the beer industry. And anyone letting a volunteer drive a forklift deserves what will happen. I don't know of any brewery that utilizes volunteers for anything except packaging and events. There are no volunteers brewing the beer you're buying.
    It's a fun! That's all. It benefits both ends. I have people that drive three and four hours for the experience. They get to show off beer they helped bottle, we get a temporary bump in our labor pool when we need it. Still not real clear how the consumer is harmed here.
  31. treznor

    treznor Zealot (559) Dec 20, 2006 North Carolina

    Honestly, that doesn't sound like you have volunteers. It sounds like you have temporary labor paid via an alternative payment method.
    Sabtos likes this.
  32. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Champion (808) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    5-10% often IS the profit margin. Maybe it’s different in other places, but I can assure you that around here, beer fests aren’t money-making opportunities. You only get volunteers to pour. Paid labor setting up, breaking down, running everything, and cleaning during the fest (often brewery employees getting OT). Professional planners, bands, riggers to set up the stage and tents, permits and fees. And that’s if it’s YOUR fest. If you are just sending a couple of kegs to someone else’s fest you don’t usually see a dollar
    They are good for getting your brand out there and connecting with your consumers. They aren’t some kind of goldmine.

    Packaging is part of production. It’s as important to getting the product to the customer as brewing and cellar. They are all trained labor, and they need to be paid.
    I’ve seen unpaid interns in packaging get on a forklift. And unless we are talking about some 1/2bbl brewery that bottles all their beer with a beer gun, packaging involves some kind of a production line. With conveyers, and gears, and motors, and dangerous cleaning chemicals. Plenty of opportunities to get a bone broken, or a chemical burn, or degloved.
    It’s insane. People get paid $30 an hour to package Coca-Cola. Breweries have a pool of passionate beer lovers who will do the same job for basically minimum wage and that’s STILL too much?
    Sabtos, FBarber, drtth and 1 other person like this.
  33. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (10,002) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Society Trader

    If you run a business, and you follow the terms of your liability insurance, meet all labor laws, and conform to OSHA regulations, I doubt you can have any unpaid staff. There might be some loopholes for immediate family over a certain age or interns who are actually in school.
    Sabtos and FBarber like this.
  34. meefmoff

    meefmoff Devotee (473) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts

    Not to draw the thread off topic but these sorts of "educational" internships can come with their own sets of problems. They run the gamut from the fact that the interns are sometimes given very menial jobs with no real educational benefit to the fact that they put otherwise entry level jobs that people who cannot afford a college education might get into the hands of people who can afford a high tuition instead. I don't know how things go in the brewing industry specifically, but I just wanted to point out that having an internship supervised by a degree program does not automatically solve the problems that may be associated with it.

    To the topic at hand, I've volunteered at a small brewery filling bottles by hand for a couple hours and it was fun. We got lunch and some beers to take home and I got to see a bit of how things work. I would view this type of "one-off" volunteering as different from an ongoing position. That said, I do see that this eliminates what could otherwise be a low paying, entry level job that someone who really wants a future in the industry could benefit from, so I see both sides.
    Harrison8 and Sabtos like this.
  35. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Poo-Bah (9,193) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
    Moderator Society Trader

    Agreed - I think some internship programs are well run and valuable while others are not.

    I think that is where some people have been having an issue, not one-off occurrences but rather ongoing volunteer positions.
  36. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Champion (808) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    Yeah, 1-day “shadow the brewer” or bottle beer/take home beer, much like stomping some grapes a vineyard for an evening. Those situations at much more open for debate. But some of the shit described in the article was anything but:

    That has never been a problem for Barley Mow’s Smith, who now works with one or two volunteers (‘volunteers’) on each packaging day, including an elderly local he estimates may be over 70 years old (so a reoccurring group of workers? Kinda like an employee? Sorry... ‘volunteer’) Since this man feels so connected to the brewery and his fellow volunteers, he won’t be turned away. Smith says the benefit for brewery and volunteers isn’t just about beer, it’s also about building community and creating a connection between a business and fans. (Bunch of justification. ‘It’s about community’, ‘He’s just an old guy, so it doesn’t count.’ Someone in the article even blamed InBev for why they won’t pay their employees. What??) He likes to call his group the “Canning Brigade,” (‘Packaging Department’)who heed the call with only a week’s notice when help is needed. So a SCHEDULED, unpaid, part-time employee? Got it.

    “It’s such a fun industry that people want to be involved,” Smith says, “in whatever regard.”

    Translation: people think this is a cool job, so I manipulate their passion and interest to turn it into free labor for me.

    That’s all this is. And it’s fucked up. It happens in other ‘cool’ industries too. Music with pay-to-play. Graphic design and photography with “free promo” material for exposure. Fashion with “educational internships”. It’s all the same. It’s not cool, it’s not cute, and it’s not right. Pay your workers.
    Alexmc2, mikeinportc, FBarber and 2 others like this.
  37. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (2,124) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Society Trader

    Sounds like a lot of the people doing the job don't need the money or don't care about being paid. I don't think a 70 year old man is looking to begin his career, he probably wants to be around people and not sitting home all day. As for younger people most probably don't do this for very long. I think people are making this into some human trafficking issue. With all the regulations does anything think beer companies are using slave labor to operate, if they do they need to lay off the booze, because no rep company would risk their license over this crap.
  38. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (886) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    That's because they are not qualified to do so.

    Maybe at your next event, you should have kids "volunteer" to package your beer for you? That way you'll violate even more labor laws.
    JohnnyChicago likes this.
  39. Sabtos

    Sabtos Poo-Bah (8,082) Dec 15, 2015 Ohio
    Society Trader

    That's no justification. This isn't a Wal-Mart greeter, it requires some skill, physical health and does have a level of risk to it.

    There are people who could be getting paid but are not getting paid here because unpaid labor is being utilized.
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