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UFCW Kentucky Distillery Workers Strike to Stop Healthcare Price Hikes, Protect Good Kentucky Jobs

September 13, 2021 Updated: September 14, 2021

Union for 25,000 Kentucky Workers Statewide Urges $500 Million Distillery to Recognize Service of Heaven Hill Frontline Workers as COVID Continues 

BARDSTOWN, KY — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) the union for over 25,000 Kentucky essential workers statewide, announced that 420 Heaven Hill distillery workers are now on strike at the company’s main facility in Bardstown to stop the proposed five-year contract that removes a cap on health insurance premium increases that reduce take-home pay, cuts overtime, and drastically changes work schedules which makes it harder for employees to support and care for their families even as Heaven Hill reports $500 million in annual revenue and the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

UFCW Local 23D is the union for Heaven Hill Bardstown workers and has been in negotiations with the company for 6 months to reach an agreement for these Kentucky workers. In July 2021, the union called for a federal mediator to join the process to help to advance talks with the company. On September 9, Heaven Hill workers voted on the company’s latest proposal and 96 percent of workers rejected the contract proposal and the strike began on September 11 at midnight. It has been nearly 2 weeks since the company left the negotiation table.

UFCW Local 23D President Matt Aubrey released the following statement

“Heaven Hill distillery workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since it began and helped produce the hand sanitizer that kept Kentucky doctors, nurses, and so many other first responders safe when COVID-19 first ripped through our communities. When so many businesses shut down, Heaven Hill essential workers stepped up, helping to support our families and keep the company and our local economy strong throughout this crisis.

“Healthcare price hikes that reduce take-home pay, cuts to overtime, and drastic scheduling changes are no way to recognize the incredible service of these Kentucky essential workers, but that is exactly what Heaven Hill is trying to do with this contract. How can a company making $500 million a year justify making healthcare more expensive for essential workers in the middle of a pandemic? What kind of message does it send when a family-owned company is pushing scheduling changes that make it harder for workers to support and care for their own families?

“Kentucky families have been working at Heaven Hill and proudly serving our communities for generations. They want to ensure that these continue to be good jobs that their kids and grandkids can count on so their families can continue this proud tradition of making the high-quality Kentucky bourbon that has powered our economy for decades. Heaven Hill has a responsibility to do right by these Kentucky essential workers and we are urging the company to step up and provide the strong contract that they have earned and deserve.”

BACKGROUND

UFCW has been the leading voice for Kentucky essential workers in distilleries, grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and so many other frontline businesses that have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Heaven Hill Kentucky distillery workers represented by UFCW produce a wide range of products, including Blackheart Rum, Black Velvet Canadian Whisky, Christian Brothers VS Brandy, Deep Eddy Vodka, Elijah Craig 12 Year Old, Evan Williams Kentucky Black, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey, Henry McKenna Kentucky, HPNOTIQ Liqueur, Old Fitzgerald Kentucky, Two Fingers Tequila, and many more. 

COVID NUMBERS: In the latest data compiled, UFCW confirmed that among the union’s members nationwide, there have already been at least: 

  • 483 frontline worker deaths and at least 93, 900 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 198 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,900 grocery workers infected or exposed 
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed 
  • 67 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing workers infected or exposed 

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UFCW is the largest private sector union in Kentucky, represents over 25,000 Kentucky workers statewide, and is part of UFCW International which represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries that serve communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org