3:48 PM Eastern - Friday, November 6, 2009

King of Beers Cutting Costs on the Backs of Workers

This Bud's Not For You: Being fired by Anheuser-Busch after years of service doesn't even guarantee you a lifetime supply of their beer.
This Bud's Not For You: Being fired by Anheuser-Busch after years of service doesn't even guarantee you a lifetime supply of beer.
Cleaners at Anheuser-Busch breweries in Newark and Rochester recently found themselves without jobs, despite years of loyal service to the "King of Beers." The brewing behemoth has brought in cleaning contractors who seem bent on cutting costs for the $23 billion dollar multinational on the backs of the working people who keep their plants running and profitable.

The new contracting companies, U.S. Metro Group Inc. and Dawn Brite, have refused to accept job applications from the laid-off custodians who have long worked for AB. These new contractors have slashed wages by a margin that's rumored to be around 40 percent.

As for benefits (like affordable quality healthcare)...there aren't any to speak of.

Anheuser-Busch-Cleaners-32BJLuci Peralta.jpg"Doesn't Anheuser-Busch get that we need to feed our families?" asked 32BJ member Luci Peralta, a cleaner who has worked at the Newark brewery for six years but was laid-off last week (pictured on the right next to Giovanny, another janitor that was laid off on Oct. 31). "With no income, I don't know how I'll put food on the table and make our house payments."

Since merging with Brazilian-Belgian brewing company InBev a year ago, American beer lovers have seen what was once a family-led company that spared little expense turn into "one that is focused intently on cost-cutting and profit margins." The company reported revenues of more than $23.5 billion in 2008.

However, in order to afford to buy Anheuser-Busch last year, InBev had to borrow very heavily from a syndicate of banks, including JP Morgan Chase. As a result, the combined group is now saddled with more than $50 billion in debt. Yet despite weaker sales in 2009, the company said in August that their net profit for the quarter rose 28 percent. What InBev is not saying is that they are trying to turn a huge profit in a downturn economy on the backs of their employees. And while AB's workers have already faced cuts and layoffs, it's a distinct possibility that InBev's attempts to balance their deficit asap will continue to threaten the jobs of current employees at the 11 other breweries and Anheuser-Busch facilities across the country.

The laid-off janitors at the Newark brewery had been making $13.30 an hour and receiving healthcare. Now, they're worrying how they're going to feed their children and pay their bills. "This is an awful time for Anheuser-Busch to watch these workers be put out on the street,"said Kevin Brown, New Jersey area director for SEIU. "The holidays are right around the corner, and in this economy, the workers may not find jobs that pay the same wages. They may only find minimum-wage jobs that don't even cover their basic bills."

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