Jim Beam employees strike after failing to agree on new contract

Jim Beam employees strike after failing to agree on new contract
Published: Oct. 15, 2016 at 6:04 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 16, 2016 at 12:34 AM EDT
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CLERMONT, KY (WAVE) – Jim Beam Distillery workers at two local operations have officially hit the picket line.

After failing to agree on a revised contract - despite a federal mediator - both the union workers, as well as the distillery, are waiting for the other side to respond.

If there is one thing they can both agree on, it's love for the Jim Beam product.

"It's the greatest bourbon in the world," Bill Ball said.

PREVIOUS STORY >> Jim Beam union employees hit the picket line

It's with a torn heart Ball stood outside the Bullitt County distillery on strike with his fellow union members in response to the newly-revised, proposed contract. The walk-out affects more than 200 employees at Beam in Clermont and Boston, in Nelson County.

"They're trying to gut our seniority rights," Ball explained. "We're out here because our temporaries brought in by—I think there's over half the people working in here anymore are temporary."

Forty-seven years. That's the amount of time Ball has spent working at Jim Beam. The company and the union have had disagreements in the past, but never like this.

"It was an overwhelming vote to strike," Ball said.

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Beam Suntory, the manufacturer of Jim Beam, responded to the strike with a statement saying that the company has gone into contingency plans to continue its product supply.

"We hope that these team members will reconsider the attractive terms offered and ultimately support the proposal," the statement goes on to read.

Ball says the terms were far from attractive.

"With vague language they can get in there and take our rights away from us, what rights we do have," he said.

Those rights include giving senior workers the choice of what jobs they want, and what shift they prefer within the distillery. Plus, Ball says, with every year workers put in the stronger the relationship between the two groups should grow.

"It's not about the money, it's about respect and the amount of hours we have put into this place," he said. "We love our jobs—I don't know anybody who doesn't like doing it."

Ball says he hopes the two sides can find a happy medium soon, so he can keep coming back to the place he loves.

The strike does not affect Jim Beam's operations in Frankfort, or the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto.

Suntory says because the distillery has gone into contingency plans, its supply chain will continue uninterrupted.

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