Since Jim Beam workers went on strike, I receive a common question: “Will this lead to other distilleries going on strike?”
The answer is no.
As labor relations go, unions make agreements with the companies they work for. Every distillery reaches collective bargaining agreements with their union. While the other distillery unions can picket on behalf of Jim Beam, the issues at hand are Beam’s and not the other distilleries.
Historically, in the distillery community, these strikes typically remain isolated.
Nonetheless, the question intrigued me to check into the status of union agreements at other distilleries.
Brown-Forman –Brown-Forman recently reached a five year agreement with its union. Says spokesperson Phil Lynch: “In early March, we successfully negotiated a new five-year contract with our Louisville Production workers (who work at the Brown-Forman Distillery, Louisville bottling and Louisville warehouse operations) represented by Teamsters Local 89. The previous contract expired February 1, but we negotiated a 30-day extension. The Teamsters approved the contract on February 13 by a 114-27 vote in favor.”
Lynch says the union had previously voted down two contract proposals, suggesting that’s why “we negotiated the 30-day extension of the previous contract (with an original expiration date of Feb 1) to continue negotiations which were ultimately successful.”
Brown-Forman’s new contract started March 1 and continues through March 1, 2021. It included a 11-percent wage increase over the next five years.
Four Roses – The distillery does not discuss union matters.
Heaven Hill Brands – The distillery ratified a new five-year agreement in September with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23-D.
MGP Ingredients, Lawrenceburg, Indiana — A high level executive said labor relations are “great.”
Sazerac distilleries (1792 Barton and Buffalo Trace) – The company says union agreements are “confidential.”
Wild Turkey – A source tells me there is labor peace, but workers are putting in a lot of overtime.
Note: Maker’s Mark is not unionized.
Check out my new book, Bourbon: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of An American Whiskey.