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Four Roses workers strike distillery, bottling plant on eve of Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Union members picketed Four Roses’ Bullitt County bottling plant after the members rejected the company’s latest contract proposal. Three unions at the bottling plant and the distillery in Lawrenceburg are involved in the strike.

 

By SYLVIA HORLANDER
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Monday, Sept. 9, 2018 — With just a couple of days before the start of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, union members from a participating distillery are on strike.

The strike began at 3:30 Friday afternoon on KY 245 in Bullitt County, just north of the county line and about a mile away from the Four Roses bottling plant. As union members wave signs, the passers-by honked their car horns in support of the Four Roses strikers.

According to Ronnie Hatfield, president of Local 23D of the United Food and Commercial Workers Distillery Division, said the workers are on strike due to different issues with the management’s latest contract offer, which the union members rejected.

“They’ve (management) taken the family atmosphere away from the workers,” he said. “Management doesn’t care like they used to about the workers.”

According to Hatfield, who has been the Local 23D president for 22 years, there has never been a labor dispute at Four Roses. However, in the last five years, Hatfield said the company’s attitude toward its workforce has changed.

For example, the company wanted to alter employee benefits that had been in place for 60 years, including worker’s comp and sick time. About 50 workers at the distillery’s plant in Lawrenceburg don’t like the proposed contract either, and are also on strike. There are 24 union workers from maintenance and the warehouses.

The three unions involved in the strike are UFCW Local 10D, UFCW Local 23D and NCFO 320. Each had a separate contract that expired July 31st.

The management’s proposed contract would create a two-tier system, with different benefits proposed for newly hired employees.

“People don’t feel like they’re being treated fairly at the bargaining table,” said Hatfield.

He said the change in the company’s attitude toward its workers comes as something of a surprise to them.

Hatfield said Local 23D members are looking forward to going back to the bargaining table to resolve the differences with management.

“Strikes are no good for anybody,” Hatfield said. “The people make a living there, and they want to continue to. They want to support Four Roses, but it has to be on even terms and we all have to feel appreciated for the job we do,” he said. “We need to take care of each other”.

Hatfield said the employment contract expired in August, and the company gave its latest contract offer last Wednesday.

Despite the strike, Four Roses will still host “Let’s Talk Bourbon,” a Kentucky Bourbon Festival event, on Friday in Lawrenceburg. The event is sold out.

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