COX’S CREEK, Ky. — Following a 100 percent solid vote authorizing a strike, 53 members of United Food and Commercial Workers locals 10-D and 23-D walked out Sept. 7 at two Kentucky Four Roses bourbon facilities. Spirited picket lines went up at both the Lawrenceburg distillery and the bottling plant and warehouse here. The region is a center for production of bourbon.
The company demands that union members accept a divisive two-tier system and concessions in sick leave, seniority rights and vacation, as well as reduced payments for workmen’s compensation.
“We walked off the job at the end of our shift yesterday,” Patrick Rogers, who has worked for close to 10 years in the warehouse, told the Militant. “We’re picketing round-the-clock.”
“We have been negotiating since July,” said Blake Newton, another warehouse worker. “The company gave us their ‘last, best and final offer’ on Thursday. There was nothing in it but demands for more concessions. We had to go on strike.”
“We’re not so concerned about what they’ve offered us, but what they want us to give up for the next generation,” Jeff Royalty, president of Local 10-D, told Lawrenceburg TV station WDRB. “A two-tiered system is like a cancer. In the short term, first year or two, you don’t see much change. Five, six, seven years down the road, it eats away. It eats away between the camaraderie of people that work together.”
Four Roses just completed a $55 million expansion expected to create 30 new jobs and double production capacity.
A steady stream of cars and trucks drove by honking their horns to show support, including workers on their way to the large Jim Beam distillery up the street.
“We have a lot of support,” Newton said, waving to the honking drivers. “Even some construction workers who were building onto the warehouse saw our picket and turned around and left. They said they would respect our picket line and not cross.”
Other area workers joined the picket line, bringing their own signs and cheers of support. Amy Anglin-Coulter came with other members of United Steelworkers Local 1241 who work at Barton’s distillery in nearby Bardstown.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Anglin-Coulter, “The union is about brotherhood and sisterhood, so here we are.”