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Union president: Heaven Hill ended renewed contract negotiations Tuesday

Matt Aubrey, president of the UFCW Local 23D, was interviewed Wednesday on WBRT’s “Bradford & Brooks” radio show.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 — The president of the union that represents striking Heaven Hill employees told the WBRT listening audience Wednesday that late Tuesday night he was told that Heaven Hill was ending the negotiations it had started on Monday.

Matt Aubrey, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D, said Wednesday on the WBRT’s “Bradford & Brooks” radio show that he was told by a federal mediator that Heaven Hill was ending the negotiations that it had just restarted on Monday.

Aubrey said the union had tendered an offer that he believed the company would find more acceptable; the company was supposed to review the offer and issue a response. But Tuesday evening, he heard that they were ending negotiations at least for the week.

Aubrey said the move was disappointing, especially in the wake of the optimism that was generated by the news that the company was returning Monday to the bargaining table.

THE ISSUES. Under the contract that just expired, Heaven Hill’s union employees work a Monday thru Friday workweek. They are paid time-and-a-half on Saturdays, and doubletime if they work Sundays.

The company’s initial offer was to eliminate paying overtime for working more than 40 hours. The company also wants to implement a schedule that will mean employees will routinely have to work weekends.

Both issues were non-starters for the employees, who voted overwhelmingly to strike.

Aubrey said the union suggested that a revised weekend work schedule apply only to new hires, and existing employees could volunteer for weekend work if they wished. That proposal was rejected by the company.

The last time Heaven Hill employees went on strike was 1986, he said.

HEAVEN HILL STRIKE RESPONSE. One of Heaven Hill’s first actions following the strike vote was to terminate the paid health insurance for all of its employees.

The problem according to Aubrey was that the insurance premiums were paid through the end of September; the Monday after workers voted to strike, they received letters advising them their health insurance had been canceled.

Not only does this put the striking employees in a bind, the move also canceled the heatlh insurance of Heaven Hill retirees. Those who depended on their retiree insurance have lost that coverage, Aubrey said.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT. The striking workers have been winning in the court of public opinion, with the community showing their support in many differant ways.

Aubrey said a number of people wore Heaven Hill strike t-shirts to Kentucky Bourbon Festival events as a show of solidarity with the workers.

Motorists occasionally stop and walk the picket line for a short time in the areas where workers are picketing; area restaurants are sending the striking workers food; and members of the community are donating food and gift cards to help the striking workers.

“The donations they receive are mind blowing, with businesses donationg tons of food,” Aubrey said. “Those are things we’ll never forget.”

Aubrey said that the horn honks from passers-by and the friendly waves of support are greatly appreciated by the striking employees.

In the meantime, Aubrey said the union members will continue to strike while waiting for the company to decide to return to the bargaining table with a commitment to negotiate in good faith.

TO GET A HEAVEN HILL STRIKE YARD SIGN. The striking employees have a tent out near the main Heaven Hill gates on Loretto Road. Yard signs that support the strikers are available there, Aubrey said. T-shirts are also available there.

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