By Lisa Fickenscher // New York Post
Jim Beam lovers may want to stock up on their favorite spirit.
Union workers at two of the company’s Kentucky distilleries have voted to authorize a labor strike.
If a deal on a new contract can’t be worked out, the workers may strike the following day.
And a prolonged strike, one that lasts several weeks, could result in Jim Beam bourbon product shortages on store shelves, experts said.
Owned by Suntory Holdings, a Japanese beverage company, Jim Beam had until October 14th to work out a deal with the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
The two sides have been negotiating for 33 days over contracts for workers at distilleries in distilleries in Clermont and Boston.
“We are seeking to understand the reasons why the union membership voted down this competitive two-year contract proposal unanimously recommended by their own representatives,” said Jim Beam spokesman Kevin Smith. “The proposal includes substantial wage increases, coupled with other enhancements including elimination of the two-tiered wage system for almost all employees.”
The workers knew that they could cause the most disruption by going on strike now as opposed to the summer when production slows down, according to Fred Minnick, author of, “Bourbon, The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey.”
“Every single day, they are moving barrels and bottling,” Minnick said. “It’s a constantly working distillery.”
A spokeswoman for Beam Suntory declined to comment on whether a strike could result in shortages at bars and liquor stores.
But supplies could get tight if a strike dragged on for a month, Minnick said.
“There are thousands of Jim Beam cases in the wholesale system en route to retailers and bars right now, but after a month,” he added, “supplies could be diminished.”
Bourbon is one of the fastest-growing types of spirits in the country, with shipments growing 32% over the past five years.