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Ally Brantley

My dissertation – “Givin’ Up Our Beer for Sweeter Wine”: The Boycott of Coors Beer, Interracial Coalition-Building, and the Making of Business Conservatism, 1957-1987 – will examine the building of a diverse coalition around the Coors boycott and implications for labor, business, and social movements from the late 1950s to the 1980s. I argue that the boycott deserves attention as a creative organizing tool within an increasingly conservative political environment, and the Coors Brewing Company and family merit attention for their roles at the vanguard of business conservatism. As owners of one of the top four breweries nationwide (in Golden, Colorado) and prominent political donors, the Coorses agitated and united a diverse array of activists. The campaign against Coors beer joined male beer drinkers, union members, feminists, students, Latinos, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, and environmentalists against a common enemy and for labor, consumer, and human rights. The family, their Brewery, and activists shared a fraught, evolving relationship over three decades. In studying this relationship, I offer a case study of class and cultural politics, focusing especially on intertwined developments in business and social activism.

The Coors boycott emerged at various moments and in diverse communities, beginning with a 1957 Brewery Workers’ strike and a Chicano-initiated campaign in 1967 to combat discriminatory hiring. Teamsters and gay activists boycotted from 1973 onward, and a 1977-1978 strike united these and other groups under a national AFL-CIO boycott. The boycott survived the union’s decertification in 1978 and continued until 1987, as other groups came, went, or steadfastly continued boycotting. While coalitions in Denver, Austin, and Los Angeles prevailed into the 1990s, Hispanics, gays, and African-Americans accepted sponsorships from Coors. Using personal and organizational papers, and oral histories, I will piece together the full history of the boycott, examining how and why such a diverse coalition expanded and weakened.