Four months ago, Baltimore artist Steve Moffett, also known as Mowgli, posted an image on his Instagram account of a Union Craft Brewing beer can with the likeness of a cartoon man and a woman. The man is leering at the woman, who looks as if she is uncomfortable, but smiling, acting as if she is OK.
For every woman I know, this image strikes a nerve. Leering men make women uncomfortable, and women keep working as if nothing is wrong.
According to Mr. Moffett, he hoped this post would bring attention to sexual harassment he said was happening at Union Craft Brewing. And apparently, it did. In a statement, Union said they hired an independent consultant to investigate and conduct interviews with staff regarding harassment in the workplace. As a result, an employee was relieved of his duties and removed from the operations at the brewery.
Mowgli apparently decided the public should weigh in. “Time’s up” he wrote on Instagram and outlined allegations that a Union employee had broken into other employees' phones and sent himself their personal pictures and videos. This post is what prompted the Union statement, and it also opened the social media floodgates. Hundreds of Mowgli’s Instagram followers begin responding: “Heartbreaking.” “Welp, bye Union.” “Any recs for another local beer?”
Let the cancel culture begin.
It is horrible that any woman working at Union was made to feel uncomfortable. Women should never experience harassment in their place of work or anywhere else. The issues were brought to light and addressed, and the company was trying to move forward.
“We apologize, take these allegations seriously, and are focused on making changes which we know will take time,” the brewery’s co-founder, Adam Benesch, wrote in an email to The Sun. “Actions speak louder than words and the work we have been doing behind the scenes for months support a new direction for Union. As we move forward, we are committed to creating a safe, equitable, supportive and fun environment for our employees and community. We can and will do better.”
As a victim of sexual assault, I want to hold organizations that harbor predators accountable. Union appears to have acted appropriately: investigating and then holding an employee accountable for actions it found unacceptable. We are still trying the case over social media, and this individual is presumed guilty — and by extension, so is Union. As a result, hardworking Union employees are facing the consequences of this swift vigilante justice, and their jobs hang in the balance. By avoiding Union, people punish its employees.
As a society, we are setting a dangerous precedent. Someone can post a claim on Instagram without context and take down a business. We need to regain perspective. Our friends and neighbors who depend on Union for their livelihood are being put in jeopardy during a pandemic.
Union is experiencing cancel culture firsthand.
Full disclosure: I live in Medfield. My neighbors work at Union Craft Brewing. My friends work at Union Craft Brewing. My neighborhood benefits from Union Craft Brewing. The brewery restored an abandoned factory and made it into Union Collective, where small businesses can pay reasonable rents and grow their companies. The people there work hard to make Union an enjoyable place for Baltimoreans and visitors from across the state and country. I’ve seen concerts there, enjoyed their courtyard and taken a selfie with Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. I love Union Brewery.
I appreciate what they have done for my friends and for my community, neighborhood and city. I don’t want to cancel them, and I don’t want our city to cancel them, especially based on an Instagram post. We don’t need to cancel Union. We need to give them a chance to make the reforms they say they are making, and hold them accountable if they don’t.
Stephanie Novak Pappas (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in the Medfield neighborhood of Baltimore.