Two labor unions have ended a partnership agreement with Harley-Davidson, citing differences with how the Bar & Shield brand handles staffing issues at its factories (Harley has been accused of replacing hourly union workers with temporary seasonal workers).

The move comes after a meeting on Monday, which saw leaders from the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), and Harley-Davidson President & CEO Matt Levatich unable to agree on how to handle staffing issues going forward.

While the disagreement ends an accord that has existed between the unions and Harley-Davidson for the past two decades, it does not affect the collective bargaining agreement that the unions have with Harley-Davidson, which has been incorrectly reported elsewhere.

“It has become apparent to me for the last seven years that Harley-Davidson has been and continues to systemically dismantle its hourly workforce through various means,” said IAM President Robert Martinez, in a letter to his union members working at Harley-Davidson.

Martinez went on to outline how Harley-Davidson manages its workforce in ways that hurt the employees:

  1. Using temporary workers employees instead of full-time and hourly workers
  2. Building factories in India, Thailand, and Brazil, rather than building them in the USA
  3. And, sourcing work to third-party providers

The unions’ complaints however seem to overlook the fact that Harley-Davidson’s sales, especially those in the United States, are constantly dropping.

Additionally, the motorcycle industry as a whole continues to suffer in terms of attracting new riders, with the only major growth markets occurring in protected territories, like South America and Asia.

Because of these pressures, Harley-Davidson reduced its work staff by 118 members earlier this year, and if sales trends continue, more workers will likely be let go from the company.

Harley-Davidson’s response to the union complaints seems to focus on the brand returning sales volumes to previous figures, which isn’t exactly a fair response to the unions’ complaints.

Even still, having recently released a bevy of “new” models that continue Harley-Davidson’s hyper-focus on the failing heritage cruiser market, one has to wonder though if Harley-Davidson’s strategy of doing more of the same will bring actually bring back any growth in the company’s unit sales. Time will tell.

Source: Milwaukee Business Journal