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Heaven Hill workers vote to end six-week strike

Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 6:47 PM EDT
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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WAVE) - A six-week long strike has come to an end Saturday evening after union workers vote to accept a new contract with Heaven Hill distillery.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D, representing 420 Heaven Hill workers and over 25,000 workers total in the commonwealth, agreed to a new five-year union contract with the Bardstown distillery.

Several workers leaving the union meeting Saturday told reporters the majority of members rejected the proposal, but only 34 percent was needed to accept the contract.

Union workers began picketing on Sept. 11.

The union said the new contract achieved key priorities including preserving affordable healthcare, increasing pay, and maintaining new overtime provisions, but some workers said they were unhappy with the contract and the strike ended too soon.

“They need insurance they need this or that - we all do, everybody does,” union member Kathy Curtsinger said. “But you got to stand up for what you believe in and what’s right. And this is not right”

“This new Heaven Hill contract is a strong reminder of what is possible when Kentucky workers stand together to protect the good jobs that keep our economy growing and our communities and families strong,” UFCW Local 23D President Matt Aubrey said in a statement.

The tentative agreement was announced on Friday, where UFCW said it had received the full recommendation of the UFCW negotiating committee. Bobby Shain, a 40-year veteran of Heaven Hill, said many voted to go back to work because they feared being replaced.

“A lot of people is getting scared,” Shain said. “They’re afraid they are going to replace us and everything like that. And I just think it’s pretty crappy what they’re doing.”

Heaven Hill Brands released a statement on Saturday’s vote to end the strike:

“Heaven Hill is grateful to learn the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23-D ratified a new five-year contract with Heaven Hill. We look forward to welcoming our team members as we transition back to normal operations. The agreement continues Heaven Hill’s long-standing commitment to its team members with industry-leading health care, wage growth and increased schedule flexibility.”

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