COX’S CREEK, Ky. — Workers at the Four Roses distillery and bottling plant pushed back the bosses’ attempt to extract concessions Sept. 21 when the company agreed to a contract that backed off divisive two-tier provisions workers were determined to defeat. Over 50 workers, members of two United Food and Commercial Workers locals and the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU went on strike Sept. 7. The company is owned by Japanese beverage conglomerate Kirin Holdings.
Over 100 workers joined the picket line Sept. 14, including members of the United Auto Workers union, Teamsters and workers from area distilleries.
Casey Farnsley and Jordan Gehlbach, UAW members at a Ford truck plant in Louisville, joined the expanded picket line. They had seen news coverage of the strike and decided to take the week off to come offer support.
“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” Farnsley said. “If we can’t fight for them who’s going to fight for us?”
The strike at Four Roses was being closely watched by area workers and by bosses at other distilleries. “The union’s rejection of the company’s offer,” the Sept. 14 Louisville Courier-Journal reported, “is being closely watched in a standoff where union leaders are framing the dispute as a battle for future workers and the survival of their bargaining power in coming decades.”
“My brothers and sisters fought for me all these years and now I’m doing the same,” Jeff Green, a distillery control room operator and member of UFCW Local 10D, who has worked at the plant for 40 years, told us.
The final contract that was negotiated gives both new hires and current workers a choice on which sick leave/disability program to sign up for — the new one the bosses proposed or the one workers currently have. It also includes a $2,000 signing bonus and annual raises of between 30 cents and 50 cents an hour.