If your Dec. 21 article [“Bottled in Bond,” Xpress] about our company were accurate, we’d be hating on us too. However, the basic premise of the article is false. Because Xpress didn’t get our side of the story, fundamental information is incorrect. In addition, the language used to portray us is misleading and offensive.
Buchi is a new, small craft brewery. We do everything by hand — hardly the industrial behemoth exploiting workers you portrayed. Your article makes it sound as if Kila [Donovan] had been a full-time employee for six months. Actually, she worked one day in June, two in July, three in August, and only 16 more over the next three months.
[Xpress reporter David Forbes] seems to have thoroughly interviewed everyone except us. We found out from Just Economics that he was writing an article, and we sent him our original statement. [He] responded with only two questions, and even our answers to those two questions were misrepresented:
1. We gave a thorough explanation of why the people that help us are classified as independent contractors. … It’s what our accountant told us made sense, considering all of the facts, which we explained but Xpress did not include. We also [said] we were already in the process of switching to W-2 employees, but [the article] didn’t mention that either. If we find out we’ve made a mistake, we’ll happily make it right.
2. Xpress asked if Buchi’s parting with [Donovan] was because of Living Wage. We said no, but the entire article [seems to be based] on [the] belief that we are lying. We’re stuck being publicly accused of something that’s not true, but we can’t defend ourselves without giving the real reasons, possibly hurting [Donovan] and inviting a libel lawsuit. Just Economics investigated an anonymous call and asked what we were paying. Then they told us that we were fine and had nothing to worry about.
Yes, we were frustrated that one of our friends would not come to us first, but we did not end our relationship with [Donovan] because of this call. Why would we retaliate for someone asking for clarification of the rules? When you are not sure about something, clarification is always good. In addition, two workers told us they questioned our certification, and the other one still works with us.
We were one of the early businesses to join Living Wage. Our marketing consultant, who also worked for lots of other companies in town, including Just Economics, informed us that our pay rate qualified for their program and invited us to join. It was very easy for us to say, “Sure, we will support the living wage effort by putting the symbol on our bottle.” Then we went back to being our overworked selves and didn’t think about it again.
We totally thought we were in compliance with the criteria until a Dec. 7 meeting with Just Economics, where we discovered that we screwed up on our application. It was an honest mistake, and we’d really like to explain what happened. We take full responsibility and apologize. However, it’s important to note that we have always paid exactly what we promised our workers we would.
We think the Living Wage question was a good one, and after reflecting on it we agree that non-essentials, including bottles of Buchi, should not be counted as compensation for a program that’s supposed to be based on meeting the basic necessities. Therefore, on Dec. 16, Buchi decided to drop the certification.
You’re writing about real people who are deeply embedded in this community. Your one-sided article did some very real damage. We are not allotted enough space [here] to respond to all of the inaccuracies. To make this right, we request a more balanced article to present the whole story.
— Sarah Schomber
Response from Senior News Reporter David Forbes: For some time, I've heard concerns about living wages and related labor issues in Asheville. Buchi's owners had the opportunity, through both an e-mail statement and follow-up questions, to make clear their point of view. We tried to address these issues fairly. We’ll continue our investigation into the overall issue and continue the dialogue with those involved, including the Buchi owners.