Bourbon producer signals intent to hire replacement workers

Oct 18, 2021, 5:12 PM | Updated: 5:49 pm

Declaring an impasse in contract talks with striking union workers, global spirits producer Heaven Hill said Monday it will start hiring permanent replacement workers for bottling and warehouse operations in Kentucky.

Union leaders responded that they’re willing to continue negotiations and accused the company of wanting to replace longtime employees with non-union workers.

About 420 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D have been on strike for more than five weeks They voted overwhelmingly last month to reject a new five-year contract offer and formed picket lines at Heaven Hill’s operations in Bardstown.

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

The dispute has revolved around health care and worker scheduling issues. The schedule dispute was a sign of the bourbon industry’s growing pains as it tries to keep up with increasing global demand.

Heaven Hill said in a statement Monday that it had negotiated in “good faith” with the union but the sides have been unable to reach an agreement. The company now will begin the process of hiring permanent replacement workers, it said.

“We’ve heard from our employees in the community that they are in favor of the proposed contract terms and eager to return to work,” said Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira. “Given the long-standing and positive working relationship Heaven Hill has with its employees, it is disappointing we were unable to reach an agreement with union leadership.”

Local union President Matt Aubrey condemned the company’s latest move.

“It is stunning that Heaven Hill is refusing to continue negotiations and is resorting to hiring non-union workers to try to push out the hardworking Kentucky men and women who have worked at the company for generations and made it the success it is today,” he said in a statement.

He said the union is willing to meet with company negotiators to continue talks.

Aubrey accused the company of refusing to bargain in good faith, and said the union had filed Unfair Labor Practices charges against Heaven Hill with the National Labor Relations Board.

The company said its operations have continued with “limited interruptions” during the strike due to a “successful contingency plan.”

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 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.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, center, surrounded by right wing activists with Israeli fl...
Associated Press

US Jews fear collision with expected Israeli government

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s ties to the Jewish American community, one of its closest and most important allies, are about to be put to the test, with Israel’s emerging far-right government on a collision course with Jews in the United States. Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm […]
1 day ago
FILE- A woman has her routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Sunday...
Associated Press

China announces rollback of strict anti-COVID-19 measures

BEIJING (AP) — In a sharp reversal, China has announced a series of measures rolling back some of its most draconian anti-COVID-19 restrictions. The National Health Commission in a 10-point announcement on Wednesday stipulated that COVID-19 tests and a clean bill of health displayed on a smartphone app would no longer be required, apart from […]
1 day ago
Yale University doctoral students Siria Gamez, and Aishwarya Bhandari, rear, work on a wildlife cam...
Associated Press

Extinctions, shrinking habitat spur ‘rewilding’ in cities

DETROIT (AP) — In a bustling metro area of 4.3 million people, Yale University wildlife biologist Nyeema Harris ventures into isolated thickets to study Detroit’s most elusive residents — coyotes, foxes, raccoons and skunks among them. Harris and colleagues have placed trail cameras in woodsy sections of 25 city parks for the past five years. […]
1 day ago
Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions stage a rally to support the ongoing strike by ...
Associated Press

S. Korea sees easing disruption as truckers’ strike extends

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Officials say South Korea’s economy is recovering from the initial shock of a nationwide walkout staged by thousands of cargo truckers, even as their strike reached its 14th day on Wednesday amid a stalemate with the government over freight fare issues. The conservative government of President Yoon Suk Yeol has […]
1 day ago
FILE - The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over during a Japanese surprise attac...
Associated Press

Hawaii remembrance to draw handful of Pearl Harbor survivors

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene of the Japanese bombing on Wednesday to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago. That’s fewer than in recent years, when a dozen or more traveled to Hawaii from across the country […]
1 day ago
FILE - Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, ...
Associated Press

Justices take up elections case that could reshape voting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up a case with the potential to fundamentally reshape elections for Congress and the presidency. The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday over the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts drawn by the legislature because they violate state constitutions. Republicans from North Carolina who are […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Bourbon producer signals intent to hire replacement workers