In the mid 70′s, I took the Sales Manager job at Mid State Distributors in Alexandria, Louisiana. Schlitz, at the time, had a 48% share of the market, and while Mid State was a small house, I had five direct reports, two of whom ran sub warehouses. Of the five supervisors, one was a tall, thin African-American named Bill Manuel. Bill, a commissioned officer in the Army, had recently returned from serving in Vietnam where he had lost a good portion of his stomach in combat. As a result, Bill was unable to eat a normal amount of food at one setting and had to eat five times a day. I quickly learned Bill was being paid 20% less than the other four supervisors. While his overall volume of responsibilities were the smallest of the five areas, I felt he deserved a raise, so I gave him one.
Immediately after I raised his salary, I was called into the corporate office and was told in no uncertain terms, that this wasn’t done and not to do it again. I left the operation at the end of the year and Bill went with me. He worked for me for about the next five years, then returned to Louisiana. The last I heard from him was that he had gone to work for an AB house there.
In other blogs I have written, I have mentioned being contacted with regards to assisting companies in finding experienced beer people. The requests almost always come with a stipulation, the top one being: “the hire must be a female.” Over the years, even I have been eliminated for consideration for key positions because of sex.
Recently, a former colleague of mine at MillerCoors lost his job after 25 years, only two years short of retirement. The Brewery told him there was not enough work for number of employees in the department, but they kept the younger man. Now does anyone believe that a company the size of MC could not have found a position for him where this individual could have made a contribution while working his last two years? Really?
The movie, 42, is the story of the baseball player, Jackie Robinson, and his struggle to break into major league baseball. Eventually Robinson’s overall talent as a ball player, and his character as a man, win out over all the discrimination he experiences. He was named rookie of the year and went on to play in six all-star games. And, of course, he is in the Hall of Fame.
Not unlike the movie 42, the beer industry continues to display discrimination today, whether it’s race, sex, age or even nationality. I hear about it all the time. If you have not seen 42 I would encourage you to go, it’s not only a good movie, but maybe after you see it, you’ll think of people you know today who have the number “42″ on their backs! Just like Jackie Robinson, many have the talent and ability, and something that is hard to find, character, they just need to get back on the diamond.