KDP Stands with Striking Workers at Four Roses
Right now all eyes are on the small 24 member UFCW local 10D, the group of striking workers fighting for benefits at Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
10D Secretary/Treasurer Matt Stone was on the line Friday, picketing busses and cars full of tourists headed to Four Roses. “Our families matter,” Stone yelled. He along with other union and community members have drawn a line between the distillery and it’s employees.
The picketers were successful in turning around several cars with their story, one that Stone tells well.
“What they are wanting is for benefits to be reduced; specifically with sick leave, they are wanting to implement short-term disability which only pays 50 percent if you have to use it,” Stone said these are just some of the new items presented in a contract that his union has said “No” to accepting.
The company tried to implement a two-tier system that would reduce benefits for new employees. Union Representative for SEIU NCFO Richard Becker, also on the line Friday, said the system creates a division in the workforce.
“New hires are given lower benefits than the people who currently work at the distillery. These workers decided that it isn’t fair and they are willing to put it all on the line for that,” Becker said. “I think what is particularly incredible about what they are doing here is that the changes the company is wanting to make will affect future workers far more than it will affect the folks who currently work here.”
Local 10D was willing to walk off the job to defend their rights.
Becker said UPS unions and others across the state have kept a close eye on 10D because similar tactics are being used by corporations since Republican lawmakers passed it’s Right to Work legislation.
“It’s the same sort of thing that UPS is trying to do with it’s teamsters,” Becker said. “Thousands of workers would be affected.”
Right to Work has caused a wave of anti-union sentiment across the state and Becker said Bevin is to blame.
“It’s Governor Matt Bevin’s agenda to divide workers in the state against each other because he knows when we are divided we aren’t’ going to be able to unite and fight back against his agenda.”
But Bevin’s plan is having the opposite effect according to Matt Stone.
“I think Governor Bevin has actually opened up the eyes of a lot of Kentuckians and in a weird way I think he has actually brought people out to vote that normally wouldn’t vote,” Stone said. “In a roundabout way he may actually help the state after his term is over because there is going to be stronger politicians out there,” he said.
Democrats are showing up in droves to support the workers, State Representative Joni Jenkins (KY-44) and candidate Cathy Carter (KY-55) were side by side Friday on the line.
“I think it is really important to come and show our support for the families and the workers here at Four Roses. You know the bourbon industry has exploded and money is coming into the state and there are just some greedy people that don’t want to share with the people who help them make this bourbon,” said Joni Jenkins.
Both Jenkins and Carter said that Republican lawmakers have continued to feed corporate greed. This anti-worker environment is hurting families because companies now feel they can scale back on the prevailing wage, workers comp and respectful negotiations.
Bevin likes to tout that business is attracted to the state because of Right to Work but Jenkins said Kentucky attracted business long before Bevin came to office.
“Businesses come to states when there is good education and when there is a good quality of life,” she said. “we were attracting businesses to Kentucky long before we passed Right to Work and they want to talk about the eastern Kentucky aluminum company that they say came here because of right to work, it came here because we gave them $15M invested in their company.”
The Fight is Far from Over
Union workers at Four Roses have been on strike since Sept. 7 at the distillery in Lawrenceburg and at its bottling facility in Bullitt County. Striking workers said they plan to continue 24/7 until their contracts are made hole again.
How You Can Help
The workers are asking a few things, vote the Republican lawmakers out who have supported a business environment that chooses profit over people and for support in holding the line.
“People are welcome to come down here on the picket line any day while these folks are on strike; they can refuse to support companies that carry out practices like this and they can vote for candidates and elected officials who stand with working people,” said Stone.
He said those candidates are Democrats.
Bottles of water and other snacks that can nourish the workers while they picket would also be appreciated. Stone said any leftovers would be donated to the local food pantry.