Striking union workers and company officials from Four Roses are scheduled to speak Friday in an effort to settle the distillery’s labor differences.
“I’d like to think we can get this taken care of,” said Jeff Royalty, president of the UFCW 10D union, which represents about half the 53 workers on strike that includes members of the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers Chapter 320. “I am trying to keep everything positive but also trying to prove to the company how serious this is for us.”
Workers went out on strike Sept. 7 and have formed lengthy picket lines on Bonds Mill Road each day since.
The timing coincided with several large events, including the annual Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, where striking union workers made their presence known.
“I was there all day [Sunday],” Royalty said, noting that nearly everyone with whom he spoke was supportive. “I could count on one hand the number of people who weren’t.”
Last Friday, the distillery hosted it’s Let’s Talk Bourbon event, which drew a large crowd, followed by the release of its 130th anniversary small batch bottle.
Royalty said most who showed at the distillery for those events were also positive.
“At least 80 to 85 percent were,” he said. “Occasionally, some who didn’t know what was going on didn’t want to talk, but most would ask questions and take our literature.”
Royalty said he’s optimistic Friday’s meeting will help get union workers back on the job but said there’s no timeframe for ending the strike if it doesn’t.
“We hope to be able to do this as long as it takes,” he said. “But common sense tells you it’s an inconvenience for the company and for the people, but I think we have our message out there.
“We were never doing this for ourselves. It’s for the next generation. I think the company got the point will try to meet us halfway. I’m looking forward to Friday.”
Royalty said one of the main sticking points is the company’s desire to create a two-tiered system that would reduce benefits for new employees. He said that can’t happen.
In an emailed statement from Sept. 14, the company said, “We value our employees and recognize they are a crucial part of what makes Four Roses a special Bourbon. We have been negotiating in good faith with the unions and offered a competitive package for our employees. It is our hope that the unions will reconsider their decision.”