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AB InBev janitorial staff joins 1,800 union janitors at Clean-Tech

Anheuser-Busch Brewery in south St. Louis.
DukeNewport Photography
via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)
Anheuser-Busch Brewery in south St. Louis

Janitors at A-B InBev have unionized. Anheuser-Busch is the largest employer of Teamsters in the beer industry but will maintain a service contract with Aramark, a nonunion provider. However, Aramark is contracting out janitorial services to Clean-Tech, which has a unionized custodial staff.

“This is a big day for working people, and especially the janitors at Anheuser-Busch employed by Aramark. These folks, they were looking for the pay benefits and respect they deserve, and they understood that unionizing would be the best way to go about that,” said Luisangel Rodriguez, a digital communications specialist at Service Employees International Union Local 1.

Efforts to unionize began in early October. Janitors sent a request to local and corporate Aramark representatives on Oct. 11.

"Aramark has yet to acknowledge their request, which makes this very essential group of workers at Anheuser-Busch’s flagship brewery and headquarters, vulnerable and without union representation," reads a press release from SEIU.

If their requests went unfulfilled, nearly all of the brewery's unionized workers were reported to have voted in favor of a strike in 2024. On Nov. 17, Alderwoman Cara Spencer introduced a Board of Aldermen resolution in support of the workers.

“There’s something incredibly wrong when wealthy corporations, like Aramark, post record profits while workers struggle for dignity, equality and respect in their workplace. Now is the time for us to stand with these workers as they exercise their right to organize,” said Spencer.

Improved wages, benefits and job protection were among the changes that sanitation workers hoped for.

“There had been some issues with some managers that, as a nonunion worker, it’s take it or leave it,” said Chris Rak, SEIU Local 1 director for Missouri and southern Illinois. “Whereas in a union environment, if there are issues with respect and treatment there’s a grievance process that people have access to to try to solve problems.”

Now, A-B InBev will subcontract janitorial services to Clean-Tech through Aramark. The brewery signed a three-year contract with Aramark in May. Union benefits will begin for employees on Jan. 8.

“I think we’ve seen this year a lot of workers coming together to stand up for their rights in a way we haven’t before,” Rak said.

This year’s statistics aren’t yet released. In 2022, the percentage of union members in the workforce was the lowest on record.

“I think janitors want the ability to own their homes, send their kids to college, be able to have some money to do some fun things on the side and to be able to work just one job. That would be an amazing place to be and that is what people deserve. It's pretty basic, but it's not where we're at,” Rak said.

Lauren Brennecke is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio and a recent graduate of Webster University.