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Heavan Hill

Boycott Heaven Hill

Don't be a scab, find out which products you should avoid during the Heaven Hill strike

Brian Young's picture
Sep 14, 2021

420 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 23D are out on strike in Bardstown, Kentucky after negotiations with Heaven Hill’s distillery broke down.

The strike, which began on Saturday, occurred after 96% of the membership voted to reject a new five-year agreement with the company. As is the case with the strike at Nabisco, the sticking point in the negotiations was that the company wanted to get rid of weekends by instituting a “non-traditional” work schedule. In a phone interview between WPRI 12 and Local 23D President Matt Aubrey, the union said the company was vague about how widespread the use of weekend shifts would be. They were also unclear if these shifts would be filled by current workers or new employees. Aubrey said that raised red flags with the union workforce and helped spur the walkout.

“We know Heaven Hill is family-owned. They tell these workers, ‘You’re family, just like us. You’re our family,’” Aubrey said, adding that most workers have their own families. “If they get pushed on this nontraditional schedule, then that’s going to take them away from their loved ones.”

Additionally, the company wanted to remove a cap on health insurance premium increases, cut overtime, and reduce take-home pay. According to the UFCW, the two sides have been negotiating for 6 months on a contract and even had a federal mediator brought in when talks reached an impasse in July.

While the company wants to cut take-home pay for workers, the industry is seeing record sales. Combined U.S. sales for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, and rye whiskey rose 8.2%, or $327 million, to $4.3 billion in 2020, even with many bars and restaurants shut down for a portion of 2020 due to the pandemic. In 2020 Heaven Hill reported bringing in revenue that exceeded $500 million. The distilleries in Kentucky produce about 95% of the world’s bourbon supply so a strike at a major distiller could have huge consequences throughout the industry.

“Heaven Hill distillery workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since it began and helped produce the hand sanitizer that kept Kentucky doctors, nurses, and so many other first responders safe when COVID-19 first ripped through our communities,” said Aubrey. “When so many businesses shut down, Heaven Hill essential workers stepped up, helping to support our families and keep the company and our local economy strong throughout this crisis.”

“Healthcare price hikes that reduce take-home pay, cuts to overtime, and drastic scheduling changes are no way to recognize the incredible service of these Kentucky essential workers, but that is exactly what Heaven Hill is trying to do with this contract. How can a company making $500 million a year justify making healthcare more expensive for essential workers in the middle of a pandemic? What kind of message does it send when a family-owned company is pushing scheduling changes that make it harder for workers to support and care for their own families?”

While most readers of UCOMM Blog will be unable to head down to Kentucky to support the strike, you can help by not buying Heaven Hill products until the strike is over. Heaven Hill produces the following brands:

  • Bernheim Original
  • Elijah Craig
  • Evan Williams
  • Henry McKenna
  • Larceny
  • Mellow Corn
  • Old Fitzgerald
  • Parker’s Heritage Collection
  • Pikesville Rye
  • Rittenhouse Rye

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