Politics

Councillors Bicker Over Closing Brewery

By RTH Staff
Published March 30, 2010

James North arts impresario Dave Kuruc sent an email to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Council today to express his anger and frustration at the announced closing of Lakeport Brewery, and to advocate a local boycott of Labatt products in protest against this decision.

Councillor Bob Bratina (Ward 2) argued in response that a boycott would be premature:

We can use Labatt market share to leverage the retention of the production facilities. Labatt has stated as I feared that the brewing equipment will be dismantled. This has to be stopped to allow future operation. Please withhold rash actions until a strategy is determined.

Councillor Sam Merulla (Ward 4) replied:

With all due respect Councillor Bratina I must support Dave Kuruc in this endeavour. We must act sooner rather than later. This is too important of an issue to simply sit on our hands.

(Followers of local politics can already see where this is going.)

Bratina came out with this rejoinder:

This is the guy who said Hilton works would never open again publicly in Council, propbably scaring a lot of workers to take early retirement. Use your head.

Merulla responded:

I'm saddened that Councillor Bratina continues to personalize issues rather than working collectively toward a resolution rather than the dysfunctional dialogue that I refuse to participate in or condone.

Furthermore, Hilton Works and Nanticoke US steel plants are running at skeleton crew levels. We must protect all manufacturing factors jobs rather than the pathetic political posturing you are displaying Councillor Bratina.

I look forward to working with the Mayor and Council on finding real solutions. You can abandon the meeting as you have in the past but please no projectiles.

Bratina shot back the following in an email he copied to local media (which is why we can read this):

I hope there are sensible people on this list who realize that the only thing that might be salvaged is the production equipment, which Labatt says will be dismantled. We now have to confront them with the only bargaining chip we have ... beer consumption.

Not to be outdone, Merulla replied:

Labbatts purchased Lakeport to swallow the competition as a direct result of corporate greed. The last thing Labbatts will facilitate is the sale of the Brewery or its equipment for Brewery purposes.

Also, you might want to research the significant contributing factors the NAFTA agreement has played a role in the demise of this brewery. Just recently their London, Ontario location was prevented from providing Labbatt products south of the border, which in essence decreased their volume of product produced, thereby running their London Ont plant at minimum capacity.

The only language these corporate giants understand is a loss in their bottom line and a boycott with full participation of Hamilton residents will go along way in reaching them and gaining their attention.

With such collegiality among our downtown councillors, it's no wonder the lower city is doing so well!

36 Comments

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 15:16:25

God, Merulla is an egotistical moron! Did anybody else almost vomit when The Spec posted some 'Hulk-like' image of the man working out * Gagggggggggg *

I did, however, find his plea for 'no projectiles' hilarious! I want to say they're the worst on Council, but sadly that's not even true... just the least mature!

Comment edited by Really? on 2010-03-30 14:23:30

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 15:55:12

"...advocate a local boycott of Labatt products..."

Not a problem, I've been doing that for 20+ years already.

As for the councilors, they're just a bunch of hot-air-generators. Merulla made a couple good points (e.g., NAFTA, Labatt's intent was always to eliminate competition, etc…) so I'll begrudgingly side with Merulla on this one, although that may just be anti-Bratina bias on my part.

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By Lurkalicious (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 15:59:04

heck I'll buy a 12 of Blue just so I can quit in disgust.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 16:00:06

ya, our future looks great down here (in the city). what an embarrassment.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 16:32:51

Worst part is that these internal arguments are then sent to local media who publish the crap out of these fights... Which is permanantly listed on Google News... Which is accessible to anybody who may want to invest in this City.

Man, if I were Gary Bettman, I would also NHL-block the sh*t out of a City where it's 'leaders' spend their days fighting through email/media and throwing pens at eachother, while designating heritage structures only to install food courts, while squandering the best opportunity for downtown renewal by bending to a greed-consortium of Public Money launderers...

Woulnd't YOU!?

Comment edited by Really? on 2010-03-30 15:34:42

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By Diana (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 18:31:37

I believe the emails indicate Bratina as the instigator. I find Merulla's responses to be reflective of an Alderman standing up not only for a grass roots person like Kuruc but also for the workers and residents of this city. The venom thrown at Bratina may be justified but
the same can't be applied to Merulla. Critical thinking is an intelligent process to be able to make this distinction. Brainless criticism does no one any good

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By Carolyn (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 19:35:01

The fact of the matter is people need to stand up
And fight back. Hamilton has had far too many closures
And we need to do whatever we can do to try and prevent
These closures from occuring. Boycotting Labatts?
sure, why not. Clearly they will still close Lakeport.
Who cares about all the people you are putting
Out of work as long as your beer sells right!
Lakeport should remain in Hamilton. Send Bratina
To London instead. Clearly he doesn't care about our
City. Cheers to Hamilton!!!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 19:37:40

The workers should take over the plant! There comes a time, when the people have to stand up and say enough is enough.

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By Boycotting Labbatt and Interbrew (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 21:44:14

They can duke it out all they want... I'll never by a Labbatt or Interbrew product ever again!

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By TerribleNews (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 22:54:44

When I saw this on TV this morning, it was sickening to see and hear - yet again another unfortunate blow to the local economy.

Personally, on looking at this in retrospect, I think the acquisition of Lakeport by Labatt's could be seen as a cost of doing business in order to take this facility (and quite possibly the whole Lakeport brand) out of production. After reading the report by the Spectator (http://www.thespec.com/News/BreakingNews/article/744966), it makes me wonder, did Labatt's try to sell the Hamilton facility? Perhaps someone else could have made a go at it, but instead all the interior machinery is being sold off without a chance to see if the facility as it stands now could have been sold to another beverage company. In this instance, I have to agree with points made by Councillor Merulla and Mr. Kuruc, we now need to "stand up and be counted"!

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By Geoffrey L. (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 00:52:22

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=110582132295112

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 08:34:07

I like how Merulla took six swipes at Bratina in response indicating he was above that sort of behaviour. Point made.

It would be nice if they could put as much effort into their jobs as their bickering.

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By attila (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 08:45:05



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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 11:31:00

Has anyone else noticed an influx in 'non-regulars' posting on Articles which have Sam Merulla's name published within them?

"Stadium Location!? Who cares... I'm too busy googling myself!"

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By frank (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 13:39:20

I agree with Really?...perhaps every posting should be tagged with Sam Merulla. That will increase hits right? lol! Why not make it necessary to have an account to post? That would potentially eliminate the possibility of more than one post by one 'anonymous' person wouldn't it? Pretty much every other news site has an account as a prerequisite for posting.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 13:42:13

Why not make it necessary to have an account to post?

Because it wouldn't make a difference, we'd just have multiple registered sock-puppets, rather than the anonymous kind we get now.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 31, 2010 at 14:31:49

What urbanRenaissance said. I'd add that there are many anonymous commenters on RTH who regularly post thoughtful, respectful comments, and I'd hate for the site to lose out on their contributions.

There are benefits to registering an account - comment formatting via Markdown, the ability to edit/delete comments (time sensitive), the ability to vote on comments, the ability to post events to the Events Calendar, comment display options, email updates, etc. - but I don't see enough benefit in making it mandatory that it justifies losing all those comments posted by people who for various reasons prefer not to register.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-03-31 13:33:11

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 16:49:46

.. I was just being cynical. Didn't mean to suggest there should be any commenting reform! I just like how many more comments Merulla-related articles get; it's humerous!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 18:49:03

Did everyone see this

http://www.thespec.com/News/BreakingNews...

It has the following info: Bratina has also backed calls for a local boycott of Labatt products.

Gee, I just did not really read that between that back and forth on Mr Bratinas side yesterday, Change of heart perhaps!

Comment edited by grassroots are the way forward on 2010-03-31 17:50:55

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 09:03:33

I find it interesting that a publicly held corporation is referred to as "evil" for maximizing profits. Corporations are by definition sociopathic. Their entire function is not to benefit any specific community, but their shareholders. That's it.

They may act in a seemingly altruistic fashion sometimes, but that's only for the public relations or tax benefits that accrue from these actions.

To expect otherwise is naive.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 09:59:12

Sure Brandon, you are telling the truth. I think some may be marking your comment down because you seem perhaps a little to accepting of that??? It may be the way it is and to think otherwise, I agree, is naive... but that doesn't mean you have to just sit back and accept it.

I have no problem with the use of the word evil. Maximizing profits at the expense of people's lives would qualify as "evil" according to most definitions given in the dictionary.

Plus, I just think the title "Extra Evilness" is kind of funny...

"More evil with that?"

"MMMM... yes please!"

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 10:22:57

I find it interesting that a publicly held corporation is considered somehow morally separate from the human beings who own and manage it. Those human beings should be held to the same moral standards as everyone else. To expect otherwise is defeatist.

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By J. Random Human (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 11:50:12

Now that Bratina and Merulla have agreed to agree (if the Spec is reporting accurately), which beers should we be drinking in place of Labatt's products? And does the boycott extend to beers produced or licenced by Labatt's parent company Anheuser–Busch InBev?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 12:10:32

Well said nobrainer. I think this same thing when people say "Life isn't fair". Yes, this is true... but that doesn't mean people can't be.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 13:05:39

To Nobrainer:

The problem is that when they're on the board, they can't look at people as individuals. If they don't make decisions to maximize profits they can and will be replaced with people who will.

The bottom line is that if you work for someone else, you're reliant on that person's decisions, for better or worse, to keep you employed.

To Kiely:

Relying on people to be fair means relying on their definition of "fairness". Suppose they don't think it's fair that they have to allow a competitor to keep eating away at their profits? Suppose they don't consider it fair that they have to keep open a money losing operation?

I'm not in any way, shape or form defending their decision as being "right", I'm simply saying that they felt they had valid reasons for it.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 13:19:44

Get up to speed here and find other Ontario-made microbrew brands that would love your support....

http://www.facebook.com/pages/If-you-love-Hamilton-say-no-thanks-to-Labatt/106563149376102?ref=ts

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 13:30:21

"Relying on people to be fair means relying on their definition of "fairness"." - Brandon

Absolutely true Brandon.

My example was more for when people know they aren't being fair and simply use the excuse "Life isn't fair" to justify their actions.

As for a beer boycott. As someone else posted, I'm a Steam Whistle drinker. So I have no problem boycotting the big boys.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 13:52:04

"The problem is that when they're on the board, they can't look at people as individuals. If they don't make decisions to maximize profits they can and will be replaced with people who will." - Brandon

Yes, but one of the big problems with the shareholder system is the desire and focus on the part of shareholders for companies to obtain short term profitability. They want their profits this this year or even this quarter. This focus on short term profitability often comes at the expense of long term profitability. For example, many studies have shown that one way to increase long term profitability is to simply treat your employees better, but very few corporate boards will promote that notion because initiatives to improve employee moral are viewed as a cost (even if it is just a short term one) with ambiguous ROI. Another example is cost reduction. I have witnessed firsthand cost reduction in the name of short term profitability damage the long term viability of the company product. Sure you cost reduced your product and made more profit this year but the product was crap and no one wants to buy it anymore. I have seen this focus on the shareholder and subsequent short term profitability suck the life out of more than one large company I have worked for.

What I'm saying is there are obviously issues with the current shareholder system that make it less than ideal from the perspective of the company, the employees, the general public and even the shareholders themselves, (e.g., the current system allowed many of them to be easily duped). So I agree with nobrainer that the system does need to change for almost everyone's benefit and if they could find a bit of moral high ground in the process that would be a good thing too.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 01, 2010 at 16:06:40

If people were to look at the history of corporations, one would find that the entity today, does not represent the entity of yesterday.

After the civil war, with the 14th amendment, they saw corporations applying for rights that were ideally meant for the newly freed slaves. And now corporations have the same rights as people. Something wrong with this ideology.

So let us look back at the labour movement, the people came together to fight for things so many of us take for granted today, public education, libraries, an 8 hour work day, vacations, benefits, pensions. the CAPITALISTS did not give the people these things, the people had to fight for them. Today, people are to AFRAID to stand up and fight for something.

It is the power of organizing, community and people when they come to together to fight for change.

It does not matter because when people do come together to initiate change, the powers to be will always use force. Our great grandparents, grandparents fought for us and it would seem, in our complacency, we all have let them down.

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 02, 2010 at 07:55:22

Kiely,

Right now it's all about the quarterly results. I firmly agree that if you treat your employees as an investment you will get much better returns from them, but since I'm not in a public corporation, what the heck do I know? ;)

My sister-in-law works for TD Insurance and has many horror stories about management (she's a team leader, sort of management/staff hybrid). One instance was where they had a suggestion box for staff, but in the management meetings the managers would "interpret" the questions well away from the original intent, but made the senior management feel better about what they were doing.

Another friend works at GM. A common occurrence there is for a manager to make a decision that will provide short-term gain but long-term pain, but get promoted based on the short-term results, which means that it's the next guys fault when things go bad. As these guys get promoted, well, you can see how the system self-selects for bad long-term planning.

Is there a solution? I decided 13 years ago that I'd never be beholden to someone else for my success, so now I'm self-employed with over 200 bosses instead of just 1. People have always told me I was crazy for not having job security, but in this era, that concept really has no meaning. People who strive for "safety" and little or no decision making often find themselves in situations where the decisions of others leave them out in the cold.

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By Hamilton is pathetic (anonymous) | Posted April 02, 2010 at 21:02:54

That's what you get for relying on an uneducated workforce. Too funny.

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By More roads (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2010 at 17:02:39

The city should run the beer store themselves, or at least hold an large ownership stake. They could hire Teresa Cascioli and use her expertise to take back market share from Labatt's. This could be a great public-private partnership.

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By More roads (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2010 at 17:03:49

Beer "factory", not beer store.

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By frank (registered) | Posted April 05, 2010 at 08:51:58

While you may have some sock puppet registered commenters with an all registered system, it makes it slightly more involved to make comments. Changing accounts, remembering passwords. It seems like it would be easy to limit the number of registered accounts to one per email address. I understand the hesitancy to limit it to registered users but the registration process here is hardly difficult... The dribble is getting annoying...

that's just my take on it...

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By Frank is a whiner (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2010 at 23:01:29

Whiner Frank, you need to stop whining. I understand whiners have a difficult time not whining, but if keep trying.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 14:50:27

People have always told me I was crazy for not having job security, but in this era, that concept really has no meaning. People who strive for "safety" and little or no decision making often find themselves in situations where the decisions of others leave them out in the cold. - Brandon

Agreed Brandon, good post. I have also seen firsthand the examples you provided (i.e., suggestion box fiasco and short term management decisions).

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