Heaven Hill Strike

Employees of Heaven Hill Distillery strike for a fourth-consecutive week in Bardstown. Oct. 5, 2021. (WDRB Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A new contract and walking the picket line are not the only concerns facing Heaven Hill employees these days.

There are tough decisions facing hundreds of union members.

"I have to start looking at my bank account when I go to the grocery store ... hoping my card goes through," said Katie Gaffney, a Heaven Hill employee.

Gaffney said paying the bills and balancing the checkbook are a lot more stressful these days.

"It's a stress that I hope ends quickly," she said.

Gaffney has worked at Heaven Hill for 15 years, but she is one of nearly 400 employees who have been on strike since voting to reject a five-year contract offer from the company in September. She said she didn't expect it to last more than two weeks, and now, it's been a month without pay or health insurance.

"I'm on medication, he's on medication, my son is on medication," said Gaffney. "We had to go to the doctor for my son, the first week that we were on strike, and I told them, 'I don't have any insurance,'" Gaffney said.

Her husband is a local builder, but she covers her husband and three children on her medical plan at work.

"Everybody's digging in and doing what we have to do," said Frankie Carrico, a steward with the Local 23-D and a longtime Heaven Hill employee.  "We have a good crowd here. The people think a lot of each other. We are a big family here. So we want to take care of each other."

But Carrico said the employees don't think the company is doing the same, and they are upset the two sides haven't reached an agreement.

"They're mad," he said. "They're upset that the company is not coming back and wanting to talk to us as fast as they have and they're feeling disrespected."

Although it has been a struggle, Gaffney said she'll continue standing her ground beside her co-workers on the picket line.

"I love my job. I don't want to find another job, but the way we are being treated, it's a punch in the gut," she said. "I need to stand up for my kids. I need to set an example for them, that they need to fight for what is right."

The company and union officials met Tuesday, but so far, there's no new agreement on the table.

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