Thursday, July 22, 2021

Allyson Brantley's "Brewing a Boycott"

Allyson P. Brantley is assistant professor of history and Director of Honors & Interdisciplinary Initiatives at the University of La Verne.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Brewing a Boycott captures the complicated history of the multi-decade Coors beer boycott remarkably well. This page comes at the end of the fourth chapter, which was by far my favorite to write. The chapter details a boycott episode that united labor, LGBTQ+, Latinx, and other activists of color in San Francisco between 1973 and 1975; together, they targeted Coors for allegations of anti-unionism and anti-gay, conservative politics. Page 99 underscores the difficulties of maintaining this boycott coalition after a major labor union, the Teamsters, withdrew its support from the effort in 1975. At the same time, it highlights the enthusiasm of many allies to keep up the pressure on the Coors Brewing Company. Here’s an excerpt:
Indeed, very few coalition members accepted the news that the boycott was over simply because the [Teamsters] said so. Without any settlement regarding contracts or affirmative action, Coors remained a target. And as Joe Coors’s nomination to the board of the [Corporation for Public Broadcasting] dominated the news in the summer and fall of 1975, many leftists, union members, and gay activists reaffirmed their commitments to the boycott and the relationships they had built in its service. Others also joined the fray, angry at Coors and spurred to action through activist networks and new revelations about the family’s conservative politics and discriminatory practices. A columnist for the Bay Area Reporter argued that “in supporting the Coors Corp. (which also owns TV stations), or any other discriminating business, we are keeping our lives, our existence in the dark ages.” To boycott, then, was a “vote against discrimination.”
While the localized fight against Coors in San Francisco came to an end in 1975 – due to top-down pressure from union leaders – the boycott itself carried on because of activists’ perceptions of it as an accessible, compelling way to fight for their lives and against conservative forces.

This tension between institutional efforts to end the Coors beer boycott and grassroots activists’ unceasing enthusiasm for it would repeat itself multiple times over subsequent decades (and throughout the next 100 pages of the book). Page 99 of Brewing a Boycott helps to reveal that the history of the Coors boycott is not a black-and-white, good-or-evil story. The boycott was a complicated movement, waxing and waning from the late 1950s to the 1990s. Over multiple decades, its organizers scored some victories and faced some bitter losses – thus revealing the complexity of the American left, the challenges inherent in coalitional activism, and the growing power of corporations and conservatives in the late 20th century United States.
Visit Allyson Brantley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue