From the Archives: 45 rpm record of songs from the Coors Brewery strike and boycott
In 1977, Coors Brewery workers went on strike over a host of grievances, and today the Auraria Library Special Collections Department contains a small collection of materials from the Coors Boycott and Strike Support Coalition of Colorado. With letters of solidarity, financial documents, receipts, product orders and a variety of promotional items ranging from comic books to stickers warning "Coors Beer not pasteurized," the collection documents a campaign that, in today's circumstances, might have existed merely as a change.org petition. But since happened in the '70s, the strikers also made music, like this 45 rpm record labeled "Coors Brewery Strike Songs."
The record includes only two songs -- "Coors Brewery" and "The Ballad of Joe Coors". They were performed by Kathy Kahn, vocalist and guitarist, with Danny McMahan on guitar. Kahn wrote the lyrics as a way to generate support; "The Ballad of Joe Coors" includes verses like this:
He said, you monkeys get in there to work
Quit standing out here in the street
Get into the brewery and bottle up that beer
We got a production to meet, today
We got a production to meet
We're gonna tell all the people how your beer ain't safe
When it's made by the hands of a scab
With no pasteurization and no qualifications
Your beer's gonna taste mighty drab, Joe
Your beer's gonna taste mighty drab
Revealing the fact that Coors beer was not pasteurized was a substantial tactic in the strikers' strategy against Coors. At the time, Coors was the only brewery that was not pasteurizing its beer.
The "Coors Brewery Strike Songs" record came with a pamphlet that provided more detail about the effort, which was produced in the studios of Denver's now-defunct Biscuit City Records. McMahan was a brewery worker and a member of the Local #366 -- the brewery workers' union -- who'd spent months organizing the boycott. Kahn was a folk singer, labor activist and bartender during this period; she was arrested twice on the picket line outside Coors for trespassing and resisting arrest. A newspaper article reported that she was once beaten unconscious while protesting; she was also accused of being a member of the New World Liberation Front, a militant activist organization responsible for the bombings of several businesses that distributed Coors beer. She denied the accusation, and called it a distraction.
At one point she was arrested with three other strikers, and they became known as the "Golden Four." The Strike Support Coalition had set up a legal services fund for their defense, but their attorney didn't seem to expect to see anything from it. After winning acquittals for all four of them, he sent a bill to the coalition, and included this near the end:
I am fully aware that it is unlikely that this amount of money will be raised for the legal services fund and I am submitting this bill mainly for the record. When I originally accepted this case I was not expecting that I would receive any compensation for it, so I will be grateful for any amounts that you can send me.
It was a pleasure work [sic] on this case and especially to hear those 'not guilty' verdicts come in on Tuesday afternoon. I know that this will not be the last case that grows out of the strike against Coors. If I can be of any further service to you in this struggle do not hesitate to contact me.
Even with the songs and the rest of the materials designed to boost morale, support for the strike dwindled as Coors replaced the strikers and continued production. In 1978, the workers voted to decertify the union and end its representation, which was the nail in the coffin for the brewery strike.
Protesters continued to boycott Coors for the next ten years, but that finally ended in 1987, after negotiations with Pete Coors, then the head of brewery operations. (The terms of those negotiations have never been disclosed.)
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