Ky. labor union leads efforts to unionize major bourbon distillery

Ky. labor union leads efforts to unionize major bourbon distillery
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 7:26 PM CST
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VERSAILLES, Ky. (WKYT) - Teamsters Local 651 is leading the effort to organize one of the bourbon industry’s biggest brands.

The organization says Woodford Reserve’s production workers are among the lowest paid in the bluegrass bourbon industry and are also in need of better benefits. So, they began speaking to workers in February and then officially filed for a union election in October.

“When the company found out the union was getting involved, they immediately gave them a dollar an hour. When we filed for an election, I gave him another four dollars an hour,” said Teamsters Local 651 President James Brant.

Brant says they are still among the lowest paid.

“You can look at what the other distilleries make in this area and there’s a lot of room to negotiate a lot more for these workers,” said Brant.

Brant says the workers’ other demands include better benefits and job security.

“We found out they’re getting three weeks less on vacation,” said Teamsters 651 Vice President Joe Lance. “They don’t have a pension plan like their brothers and sisters in Louisville do at Brown-Forman.”

In a statement, Woodford Reserve’s parent company, Brown-Forman, said it is “committed to having a positive working environment and empowers its workers to communicate directly with leadership.” They went on to say that unionizing is not in the best interest of the production team in Versailles.

Teamsters Local 651 is looking to set a standard for the bourbon industry and its workers. Brant is confident the union vote on November 17 can help that cause.

“The workers are what started this thing and we’re behind them, 100%,” Brant said. “I have one message to all the workers here, let’s finish the thing. They have a golden opportunity to improve the lives of themselves and their families.”

Brant says the teamsters will be out on the Woodford Reserve property line for the rest of the week from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., showing their support for these workers.