In The Wine Industry #CellarLivesMatter

The wine and alcohol industries are unique. They operate within a highly regulated meliu that other industries would find jarring and alien. As a result, it’s often the case that the controversies that surround alcohol are very specific to the industry. The shoe industry or the snack food industry would, for example, find no context for understanding a ban on their products being shipped across state lines, whereas within the alcohol industry such restrictions are common place.

But sometimes, the alcohol industry finds itself sucked into common cultural issues and controversies that more often than not they avoid:

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday said a winery employee was not racially insensitive when he wore a vest that said “Cellar Lives Matter” in the midst of a union organizing campaign, upholding a decision by the National Labor Relations Board.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by Constellation Brands Inc, represented by Kaufman Dolowich Voluck, that it had a right to prohibit the employee from wearing the vest because its politically charged message could spur dissension among its workforce….

“We see no evidence that the slogan criticized or degraded anyone of any race or, even more specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement or mission,” Circuit Judge Michael Scudder wrote. “To the contrary, all signs point to Chavez’s attraction to the slogan precisely because it might grab the attention of his intended audience — Woodbridge’s management.”

There was very little coverage of this case and the denizens of Social Media seem to have ignored the case also. #CellarLivesMatter never trended on twitter and there was no outrage to be seen over the appropriation of the #blacklivematter slogan for other ends.

More interesting, the decision that the use of the term #CellarLivesMatter did not “degrade…the Black Lives Matter movement or mission” could have easily gone the other way depending on the composition of the 7th Circuit panel of judges that heard the case.

On the one hand, this somewhat obscure case demonstrates just how quickly a relatively new cultural movement can become a central fixture within the broader society. On the other hand, it reminds us that despite the alcohol industry’s unique and standalone place within society, it is not immune to being sucked into broader cultural movements.

The Diversity/Inclusion/Equity movement has already found voice across the wine and alcohol industry, most commonly through enhanced recruitment and advancement efforts for underrepresented minorities. But it is fairly uncommon to see this kind of broader controversy invade the industry.

Expect more.

Posted In: Culture and Wine

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