Abstract: Settling for a “Fair Share”: Black and Hispanic National Incentive Agreements with the Coors Brewing Company, 1984-1989
In 1984, the Colorado-based Coors Brewing Company and black and Hispanic leaders signed two historic “fair share” agreements. Coors committed to return a portion of its revenue – to the tune of $625 million over five years – to minority communities. Black and Hispanic signatories, in turn, agreed to work to put an end to a nearly thirty-year boycott of Coors beer. Examining Coors’ two agreements and divided public reactions to them, this paper argues that the move to negotiate fair share reflects shifting and converging priorities among activists and businesses in the 1980s. Indeed, remarked Advertising Age in 1986, “this odd alliance could have only taken place in the ‘80s, when activism left the streets and moved into the boardroom.” Fair share agreements were new approaches to old problems. As government aid shrunk under the Reagan administration, black and Hispanic leaders looked to corporations to support their communities through investment, procurement, and philanthropy. But what exactly was a “fair share,” and who won and lost as a result of the agreements? Critics charged that the agreements benefitted Coors and middle-class professionals at the expense of working-class black and Hispanic consumers and boycotters.