Cornish College art students help with Microsoft temps’ campaign for better benefits; Elysian Brewery’s co-founder leaves after sale to beer giant; and zulily clarifies Alibaba’s role.
The labor movement has a rich history of using art to galvanize support, from the black-cat symbol of the Industrial Workers of the World to folk songs by Pete Seeger and the writings of Upton Sinclair.
So when Philippe Boucher, a contractor on Microsoft’s campus who helped organized Washington’s newest union of technology workers, searched the Web for images to depict his campaign for paid time off, he was surprised by what he found.
“There were very few images on these themes,” Boucher said. “Almost nothing.”
Boucher got some help to remedy that. The Bainbridge Island resident ran into a neighbor, Natalia Ilyin, as his campaign was gaining steam this winter. Ilyin, a professor at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, happened to teach a class called “Design for Social Change.”
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A partnership was born. Ilyin asked her students to create poster- and advertisement-style images on behalf of the Temporary Workers of America, the union chartered last year by Boucher and fellow employees of a Redmond unit of technology contractor Lionbridge Technologies.
Among the results: A family at a barbecue with the father figure cut out. A man and a child seated at the dinner table next to an empty chair. Someone in a cast worrying about having to rush back to work too soon.
Many of the pieces feature the phrase “Paid Time Off Matters.”
That isn’t a coincidence. In March, several months after Boucher’s campaign began and amid a broader push for better wages and benefits for the lowest-paid workers in a booming technology industry, Microsoft ordered the contractors it buys services from to give their employees 15 days of paid leave a year.
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith made the announcement in a blog post under the headline “Paid time off matters.”
He’s also keeping an eye out for an opportunity to hold an exhibition of the images.
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Beer maven leaves Elysian behind
On Wednesday evening Dick Cantwell drank an Elysian Dayglow IPA, then walked out of the Capitol Hill Elysian Brewery, leaving behind the 19-year-old local company he helped found.
He’s going to use his free time to finish writing his third book, which is due in August.
Cantwell brewed his final batch of Elysian beer last month — a gooseberry IPA made with malt from Skagit Valley Malting, New Zealand hops and a strip of beechwood from a brewery in St. Louis, to be exact. And he spent the subsequent weeks traveling, tying up loose ends and cleaning up Elysian Tangletown for whoever will be replacing him.
“I’m leaving, but I want everybody to know if they need help with anything, they can of course call me,” he says.
Cantwell’s departure comes just months after Elysian was purchased by national beer giant Anheuser-Busch in January. A-B is best known for Budweiser and Bud Light, and is a subsidiary of the Belgian-Brazilian company InBev.
As a craft-beer man to the core, Cantwell was against selling to A-B since he was first approached with the idea at the annual Craft Brewers Conference last year. But he felt a responsibility to bring the idea to his two co-founders.
The rest is history. He was outvoted. Cantwell says he tried to go along with it; A-B was generous and was going to allow him great opportunities, such as going to Patagonia to consult on a brew pub, but in the end he couldn’t do it.
“It would just be sort of a stop to my career as a craft brewer,” he said.
He gave his 30-day notice on April 13.
Cantwell and his girlfriend, Kim Jordan, the CEO and co-founder of New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, have fantasized about opening a small craft brewery together, just for fun.
That’s something the craft- beer community in Washington would love to see. But it might not be here: Cantwell’s noncompete agreement extends for five years in the Northwest, but just one year elsewhere.
“Somewhere down the road, we’ll see another brewery with Dick Cantwell’s name attached to it,” says Eric Radovich, executive director of the Washington Beer Commission.
Heather McClung, president of the Washington Brewers Guild, says she appreciates Cantwell taking a stand against A-B. “His stepping down helped rectify the misconception” that he was a sellout, she says.
Cantwell says he is on his way to San Francisco for a couple weeks to work on the book about barrel-aged brewing with Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium. Once that’s done he plans to revise his guide to starting your own brewery.
“Things are changing in the industry so fast,” he says.
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Zulily CEO calms Alibaba speculation
Alibaba’s newfound role as a major shareholder in zulily, while bolstering confidence in the moms-oriented flash site’s future, does not have any impact on the company’s operations, zulily CEO Darrell Cavens said Thursday.
“It’s very much a passive investment on their part,” Cavens said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle. “There’s no business relationship.”
He added that “we have no operating partnership with them or anything like that.”
The comments, in response to a question asked by one of the handful of shareholders who attended the gathering, come in the wake of wild speculation about Alibaba’s real intent when it went on a shopping spree last week that left it with a 9.3 percent stake in zulily.
Cavens’ remarks underscore how the Chinese behemoth’s interest in the company seems to follow a path that it’s trod before — high-profile but limited investments in U.S. tech firms such as Lyft, the car-service company, and Snapchat, the social-media app.
Alibaba holds Class A shares, which have a tenth of the voting power of the Class B shares held by Cavens and other zulily insiders.
Alibaba did buy those shares at a bargain price, amid a steep drop that followed a downward revision of zulily’s yearly sales target.
But the $56 million buying binge helped lift the share price: This past Thursday it closed at $13.28 a share, after dropping briefly below the $10 mark in trading after zulily announced its lowered guidance May 5, and then jumping to nearly $16 the following Monday on news of Alibaba’s investment.
— Ángel González: agonzalez@seattletimes