Big bourbon producer Heaven Hill faces strike in Kentucky

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Associated Press 13 September, 2021 - 04:10pm 38 views

Why is Heaven Hill on strike?

The dispute over weekend work is a sign of the bourbon industry's growing pains as it tries to keep up with growing global demand. Heaven Hill signaled that it wanted to assign new hires to nontraditional schedules that would include weekend work, Local 23D President Matt Aubrey said in a phone interview Monday. go.comBig bourbon producer Heaven Hill faces strike in Kentucky

Union workers, upset over the prospect of expanded weekend shifts, have manned picket lines at bottling and warehouse operations of Kentucky-based Heaven Hill Distillery, one of the world’s largest bourbon producers.

The walkout, in its third day Monday, involves about 420 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D. They voted overwhelmingly last week to reject a new five-year contract offer and formed picket lines Saturday at Heaven Hill’s operations in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Family-owned and operated Heaven Hill produces Evan Williams, one of the world’s top-selling bourbons. Other Heaven Hill brands include Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny and Parker’s Heritage Collection.

The dispute over weekend work is a sign of the bourbon industry’s growing pains as it tries to keep up with increasing global demand.

Heaven Hill signaled that it wanted to assign new hires to nontraditional schedules that would include weekend work, Local 23D President Matt Aubrey said in a phone interview Monday. The company was vague about how widespread the weekend shifts would be and how it would affect existing workers if weekend shifts could not be covered by new employees, he said.

That raised a “red flag” with union workers and helped spur the walkout, Aubrey said.

“We know Heaven Hill is family owned. They tell these workers, ‘You’re family, just like us. You’re our family,’” Aubrey said, adding that most workers have their own families. “If they get pushed on this nontraditional schedule, then that’s going to take them away from their loved ones.”

The union said the company’s contract offer also would remove a cap on health insurance premium increases, cut overtime and reduce take-home pay.

Heaven Hill said its support of employees “has been a source of pride” since its founding.

“We have had productive conversations with the union for several months now regarding components of the contract,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to collaborate with UFCW leadership toward passage of this top-of-class workforce package.”

Workers often spend long careers at Kentucky bourbon distilleries, and the jobs often attract multiple generations of families. Disputes flare up occasionally, and other strikes occurred in recent years at Jim Beam and Four Roses — other iconic names in the bourbon sector.

The bourbon industry has been on a long-running upward trajectory. Combined U.S. sales for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey rose 8.2%, or $327 million, to $4.3 billion in 2020, despite plunging sales from bars and restaurants because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reported early this year.

Kentucky distilleries produce 95% of the world’s bourbon supply, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

Read full article at Associated Press

Heaven Hill employees go on strike

WAVE 3 13 September, 2021 - 11:40am

The members of UFCW 23-D began picketing at 11:59 p.m. Friday. Larry Newton, a union steward, said 96.1% of the members voted for the work stoppage.

According to a release from UFCW, the rejected contract “removes a cap on health insurance premium increases and would reduce take-home pay, cuts overtime, and drastically changes work schedules.”

Josh Hafer, a Heaven Hill Brands spokesman, said the contract voted down by the union was a five-year agreement.

Kentucky Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville) said he hopes Heaven Hill can soon come to an agreement with its workers, as the bourbon industry is so vital to the state.

“Heaven Hill distillery is already one of the lowest-paying distilleries in the area and with this contract that strips workers of vital protections, they’ve made it clear they don’t value their workers,” Booker said in a statement. “In some cases, workers have been forced to work seven days a week with no days off, week after week. It’s not right and no one should be asked to make these sacrifices with no consideration for their well-being.”

Hafer said Heaven Hill plans on continuing to work with UFCW 23-D to come to an agreement on the workforce package.

Employees on strike at Heaven Hill in Bardstown demanding better working conditions

WLKY Louisville 13 September, 2021 - 08:04am

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Employees are on strike Monday morning at one of Kentucky's largest bourbon distilleries.

Picket lines are expected to be scattered throughout Bardstown all day as Heaven Hill employees fight for a better contract.

It seems contract negotiations are going sour between the distillery and the union Local 23D.

On Thursday, Heaven Hill said the two had failed to ratify a new 5-year deal, and said "We will continue to collaborate with UFCW leadership toward passage of this top-of-class workforce package." They sent virtually the same statement on Monday.

Now, workers have grouped up at 10-12 locations around the city demanding better pay and conditions.

Picketers tell WLKY, "It's not all about the pay...It's not about the money, it's about the appreciation of the employees." Some say they've been forced to work seven days a week.

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Employees on strike at Heaven Hill in Bardstown demanding better working conditions

WDRB 13 September, 2021 - 08:04am

The latest breaking updates, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Employees are on strike Monday morning at one of Kentucky's largest bourbon distilleries.

Picket lines are expected to be scattered throughout Bardstown all day as Heaven Hill employees fight for a better contract.

It seems contract negotiations are going sour between the distillery and the union Local 23D.

On Thursday, Heaven Hill said the two had failed to ratify a new 5-year deal, and said "We will continue to collaborate with UFCW leadership toward passage of this top-of-class workforce package." They sent virtually the same statement on Monday.

Now, workers have grouped up at 10-12 locations around the city demanding better pay and conditions.

Picketers tell WLKY, "It's not all about the pay...It's not about the money, it's about the appreciation of the employees." Some say they've been forced to work seven days a week.

Hearst Television participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on purchases made through our links to retailer sites.

Heaven Hill employees on strike in Bardstown

WHAS11.com 12 September, 2021 - 11:06pm

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BARDSTOWN, Ky. — Employees at one of the country's largest distillers, Heaven Hill, won't show up to work on Monday. 

They'll be outside the Bardstown buildings, standing along the road with signs. 

"Whatever it takes, as long as it takes," Plant Chair Larry Newman explained.

Heaven Hill presented UFCW local 23D with a new contract last week. The union brought the contract to its 420 members and asked them to choose: agree to it or go on strike.

96.1% of members that voted chose to go on strike.

Local president Matt Aubrey said, "The members feel mistreated."

Members argue language in the current contract referencing traditional and non-traditional schedules could require members to work weekends.

Newton said the potential weekend requirement was rejected by members because of its impact on their families. 

"This schedule is going to take time away from us and our kids and our family," he said. "We are going to miss everything. We are going to miss their graduations, we are going to miss birthdays, all of that stuff. We are going to be working weekends."

Heaven Hill provided the following statement to WHAS11 News:

Those on the picket line say they hope it won't take long, but they're prepared to wait for what they want.

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