Unions Cave to Harley-Davidson Ultimatum

09/13/2010 @ 12:40 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

Workers at Harley-Davidson’s Menomonee Falls plants have caved to Harley-Davidson’s labor restructuring ultimatum today, voting to approve a seven-year labor contract that would see 275 jobs cut and a two-tiered workforce implemented in the company’s Wisconsin-based production plants. The vote comes after Harley-Davidson threatened to move its Wisconsin production outside of the state (Kansas City being one of the alternatives), which would see the unions losing its entire 1,350 member workforce.

The ultimatum and agreed upon contract are a similar to the ones that Harley-Davidson gave to its York, Pennsylvania plant, and sees some full-time workers, who make $30.50/hr plus benefits, being replace by “casual” non-union workers who will receive $16.80/hr with no benefits. Workers at Harley’s Tomahawk plant are expected to vote on a similar proposal tonight, with a “yes” vote expected from its constituents.

“It doesn’t feel good now, but we’re happy we kept jobs in Milwaukee,” said Mike Masik, President of United Steelworkers of America Local 2-209, talking to the Milwaukee Small Business Times. The union’s agreement comes with no guarantees from Harley-Davidson, but the Bar & Shield brand has said it will stop looking for alternative sites.

If the unions had voted against Harley-Davidson’s proposal, Harley’s Board of Directors would have met Tuesday to begin the process of moving production out of Wisconsin. A letter from Keith Wandell stating this reality is reportedly what sent union members into action to approve the contract. “They put the people’s back to the wall,” said Masik.

The Menomonee Falls plant has about 1,070 active employees, who make motorcycle engines and transmissions, while the Tomahawk plant’s 275 active workers make windshields and other components.

Source: Dealer News & Twin Cities

  • Choco

    Admittely economics are complicated, but Harley is following the lead of many USA manufacturers by racing to the bottom. Harley believes it can increase it’s bottom line by paying workers half what it paid before and the new “casual” workers will use up their minimal income paying for rent, mortgage, gas, utilities, health care and groceries and will have nothing left over for buying motorcycles, etc. The more American workers are paid, the more discretionary spending we will have which will be circulated throughout the economy. Corporations have been pushing for lower wages for a long time and the short sighted corporated CEOs and their boards and investors confuse short term profit with long term sustainability. Our current economic doldroms are the result of this race to the bottom. The irony is that the “casual workers” will not be able to afford a new Harley.

  • Ry_Trapp0

    Real shame. H-D could’ve been much better off with a union-free workforce in another part of the country. Unions have proven to be nothing but an anchor in these current days of workers rights legislation. They are unneeded.
    The foreign auto/bike manufacturers have proven that both the company AND the employee can benefit WITH OUT a union being involved. The non-union workers take home approximately the same amount of money/benefits as an equal union worker(this applying to the auto manufacturing industry), they don’t pay bullshit union dues(I have a friend and a brother in law who are both union reps, I KNOW how bad union dues get wasted), and they don’t have to give up a piece of their pay check for retired union members who would rather live on money earned by other people instead of putting together a retirement plan like every other non-union member in the country.[/uncontrollable rant]

    Choco, would you rather the company slowly die from the cancerous union and cost all of those people their jobs, or would you rather they take a pay cut and get to keep their job? There is a reason so many companies manufacture over seas, and it’s NOT because of corporate greed. It’s because of the greed in this country. US citizens make FAR more money than 99% of the people in the world, it doesn’t mean that we should be making this much.

  • Choco

    Well Trappo, why stop at $16 per hour, why not $8 per hour? Worker’s greed again? Better yet, why not $4 per hour? The reason some non-union wages are on par with union wages is because unions fought for higher wages and set an income baseline that non-union companies had to match in order to compete for skilled workers. I understand there has been and continues to be union fraud and mismanagement, but wages are relative to cost of living so there won’t be too many houses or Harley’s sold to people making $16 per hour unless both couples work full time with a little overtime thrown in. Lower wages are fine, but they have to coincide with lower cost of living or there simply is no discretionary spending, when people can afford essentials only, the economy collapses, look around you.

    HD problems aren’t because of their unions but because our downturn in the economy is related to this race to the bottom that has allowed and rewards corporations to offshore and outsource labor without any penalties. The issue with unions is like closing the barn door after the livestock has already got out. HD isn’t responsible for offshoring as they are a domestic company for the most part, but the rest of the economy, from dishwashers, to stereos to cameras to game boxes to Boeing jet parts, you name it, is made in cheap labor countries primarily China. The wholesale offshoring of American corporations has another side affect that might come back to bite us hard: We are dumping billions of dollars in trade deficit into China, which has a very rapidly growing economy and is gobbling up more and more oil and gas reserves around the world and is using a lot of this American trade defecit money to ramp up their military.

  • irksome

    “Casual” workers do casual work. And no benefits? That’s a great way to represent their clientele. Why not shitcan the execs who’re actually responsible for HD’s over-reliance on archaic technology? HD’s blackmail, along with their core customers graduating to walkers and RVs, will now hopefully hasten their slide into oblivion.

  • bruske

    Unions are B.S.
    They are evil and a root cause to the downfall of this country. I own a small manufacturing company and will move it to another state if union ever came in. They have ruined and pushed several companies to to other countries and are unfair to the people that actually work hard and care about there jobs. My employees are paid well and have good benefits. And with the mony we save we are able to buy them lunch every Friday and monthly parties.

    Keep your unions and go elsewhere. I’ll keep my company and my freedom and happy employees.

    Hope all unions die.

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  • Tom

    It is not an opinion nor is it an ad hominem attack to call people who are not rich but say that unions are evil, stupid slaves. Unions are not natural entities but rather REACTIONS by beings who have a natural survival instinct. Companies that do not have rapacious owners do not see unions in open shop states. However, companies that force their employees to form a union to survive get what they deserve. If one wants to get rid of unions, then one must first work to get rid of rapacious business leaders and then unions will fall apart on their own lacking the necessary fuel for unions dues.

    Choco is right on. Since the end of WWII, the US economy has been based on the CONSUMER. However, since Reagan and the wealth destroying mythology of Trickle Down Economics, the US has been in a backward slide toward Plutocracy. Class Warfare is a byproduct of civilization and it has always been the rich minority versus everyone else. The slaves don’t recognize this and sadly, it looks like they far outnumber thinking people at the voting booth. CEOs will continue to think in quarters while China and India think long term. History is replete with empires that have fallen, but I am not familiar with one that packed up its wealth and willingly shipped it abroad with such hubris.

  • aptimus prime

    No need to get bent out of shape about unions, their myopic obsession with wages and compensation is putting them all out of work. They couldn’t possibly care less about job security which is why they find themselves in this situation. In Japan the unions actually exist to help workers improve their skill set and they try to match worker skills with company demands. They also think about the long term (i.e. 40+ years of employment and pension). In the US, every union I’ve every been stupid enough to belong to, guarantees more perks for less work which is the antithesis of long-term job security. It’s also unfair to the other prolatariats who are unfortunate enough to patronize unionized businesses.

    US workers always go along with it b/c no matter how badly the industry crumbles and no matter how poorly the union bosses secure jobs over the long term, the union always manages to pin the blame on the service workers at the top. Unions are even willing to take taxpayer money as long as it means they can continue working less for higher wages. The justification is always the same: Someone is rich and I’m poor so extortion is legal. If $30 an hour is justification for extortion, then $8 an hour certainly justifies armed robbery, and $1 a day probably justifies nuclear genocide as a method of raising one’s personal income.

    *Sigh* The mind of a union employee. Too dumb to realize he can quit whenever he wants to seek higher wages elsewhere. Too proud to let rich people make money off of the sweat of his brow. His compensation is high, but his career and his benefits are a ponzi scheme. The young ones are enslaved by the elderly under the pretense that someday the government might step in and bail them all out. The union brass put new employees in their shackles while reminding the non-union service industry workers that they are slaves. There is always a conspiracy against unions even though they are paid more than their labor is worth (hence the collapse of union labor and the companies they work for).

    How could unions be dying? It sounds like the good life. Slowly kill the company that pays you with onerous labor contracts. Never worry about things like labor productivity or innovation. The unions are much too good to sully themselves with the plebeian trappings of commerce. Those “greedy” concerns are only necessary for the white collar slaves.

    If Harley Davidson had any decency whatsoever, they would have moved the factory and all of the employees to a non-union state. No one would have lost their jobs, and Harley’s margins would have improved. Alas, they lack courage, but we’ve know that for a long time haven’t we?

  • Tom

    There is never a shortage of stupid slaves willing to show the world their lowly status as though it were a badge of honor.

  • Will

    Yawn, H-D, yawwwwwnnnn…

  • Jim

    Blaming unions for the state of the US economy is asinine. Today only about 7.5% of the private sector workforce is unionized, a far too small a number to have a dramatic effect on the economy. Anyone who continues to do so is either seeking to blame others for the inadequacies of their own businesses or is willfully blind to the toll that globalization has had on regional and national businesses since it is inconvenient to the their free market ideology.

    While one company can save itself by reducing costs, and entire economy cannot not do the same.

  • Mike L.

    The unions? Really? That’s the discussion? In college I had to join the union, and it seemed like a screw, but then I blew out a nut (hernia) loading trucks for UPS and the insurance was pretty damn handy. Both good and bad, but Harley replacing paid help with part time, benefit-less, trailer-park living New Middle Class is hardly the real issue.

    Either way, the elephant in the room- which so few in our country ever mention because we are too busy falling for the Right vs. Left scam that the companies that own our government have all the twits falling for- is China! China is at war with the US with their monetary policy. China is for whom we have no Department of Defense. China is where ALL OF OUR WEALTH IS POURING, through Walmart et al.

    Do we need spatulas to cost $1? Well then we need China, otherwise they will be our demise. Companies that outsource to get cheap labor in return for no future customers are the culprits here, and our congress, paid by these companies to avert there eyes from and Trade Policy, too weak to vote these companies out of office with campaign finance reform, are bound to be their puppets. After all, if you had that cushy job, with blowjobs from hot interns and a staff to serve you, would you vote against the hand that feeds? Unlikely.

    So, yes, it’s the union vs non, right vs left, don’t mind that man behind the curtain, he’s a Chinese motherfucker and he’s raping America of her wealth. Or maybe he’s a CEO worrying about this quarter’s performance instead of the next so he can get his millions. Either way, it hurts.

  • gnmac

    Ahhhh….told ya so :)

  • gnmac

    Freakin’ China!!

  • Choco

    Mike, you correctly identified the real issue, and that is the phoney left vs right, union vs non union dialectic that predominates political and economic discussion these days. Politicians on both sides are front men for global billionaires and the recent expose in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer about the Koch brothers billionaire oil tycoons and their sponsorship of the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Club, various other think tanks ad nauseum is a very good read. These ego driven ultra materialistic billionaires sponsor think tanks and PR firms who hire psychologists who in turn know how to exploit human fears and weaknesses. They develop political strategies that make the other guys look evil so that voters are forced to choose the lesser of two evils. So when you vote against one party, you are really endorsing the corrupt politics and manipulations of the other party and you literally give them a mandate to continue with destructive short sighted policies that only benefit a few. Our dilema is that not voting or total apathy endorses the status quo.

    The solution is to have a political system with instant runoff voting. That is, we can have a third party, fourth party, etc. When you vote, you vote for the person you really want without fear that even though he or she is a long shot, your vote won’t undermine and take away a vote for the the representative of the party you choose. For instance, take the last election. Say I wanted to vote for (D) Dennis Kucinich but by doing so I’m afraid he will not get in and my vote would be wasted and would help McCain get in so I vote for Obama. Let’s say I like (R) Ron Paul but I’m afraid a vote for Paul, a long shot would take away my vote for McCain and would help Obama get in. Instant runoff voting means you vote for your favorite candidate and these candidates continue to stand on the stage and debate the issues and are not silenced and marginalized so easily and so quickly by the corporate media. If your first choice doesn’t make it, your vote automatically goes to your second choice etc.

    The two-party-only system is carefully maintained because it is a manifistation of a psychological strategy called the Hegelian Dialectic and this is what Mike is saying when he says the left vs right system is a scam. Antony C. Sutton, a brilliant economic scholar, a research fellow at the Hoover institute for war and peace at Stanford, who passed away in 2000, discoverd that many of our industrialists and international bankers, anglican, moresoe than Jewish bankers, were financing the Bolshevic Revolution, WWI, WWII, etc. He explodes the secrecy in the Yale based elitists club of Skull and Bones in his book American’s Secret Establishment, an Introduction to the Order of Skull and Bones. If you want to know who is controlling politics and you want to rise above the daily sound bites, read this book, if you can find it. If this hasn’t gotten your attention yet, then consider the 2004 election, Skull and Bones George W. Bush, vs Skull and Bones John Kerry, both admitted to Tim Russert on TV that they were Bonesman and both refused to discuss it at all.

    Bruske, above, says he has a small manufacturing plant and pays his workers well and provides benefits. That’s good but is he the norm or the exception? When a factory starts out it is usually because someone had a good idea and innovated a product that the public wanted. The inventor usually wants his or her product to be quality, enduring, form meets function and all that. So the factory gets built workers are hired, the workers earn wages, circulate them througout society, secondary and tertiary business spring up and the economy prospers. Now someone sees this prosperity and want’s some of the action. They build a factory, build a similar product, pay their workers less, increase their profits, become richer than the first guy and the employees have less to spend, the economy suffers, other smaller business shut their doors. The first guy looks at the second guy and realizes his personal fortune is because he paid his people less so he in turn pays his employees less and the economy suffers further.

    But so far neither factory has suffered the consequenses of short-sighted race-to-the-bottom ego driven greed because there are so many other factories producing so many other items and paying their employees more than a subsistance living that the effects are not immediately felt throughout the community. But then the other factory owners hire accountants and charge them with making more profit and then these factories cut wages and seek other means to save cost and up profit. Another way to increase profits is to skirt environmental regulations. One way to skirt environmental restrictions is to sponsor the campaign of someone who is also short-sighted, greedy, narciscistic and eventually you get enough of these people in Congress and the Whitehouse until the country resembles the Kingdoms of old where the Royals and elites lived in opulance and decadance and everyone else scratched out a bare subsistance living. You could be hanged for hunting deer in the King’s forest.

    But it gets worse, because we don’t just race to the bottom against ourselves in the USA, the north vs the deep south, we now race to the bottom against every third world country. Instead of a rising tide raising all boats, instead of settling on fair wages and fair trade, the globalists have engineered a global economic system wherein they can build their factories anywhere and import and export anywhere without any penalties and can deposit their money in offshore accounts like the Cayman’s etc, and can finance politicians to further their narcisistic ego-driven ambitions. They do all this under the cover of extreme patriotism and religion because their PR psychologists know the psychology of the human mind and how to manipulate the masses. Fear and distractions.

    And finally there is the parasitic entity called Wall St. When and if Bruske’s factory grows to be a substantial factory and becomes a Wall St., public listed entity, then the mandate of the company is not inovation, but money, pure and simple. The US Corporate Charter demands that the CEO seeks profit, it does not demand that the corporation provide a public good. So now we have a CEO and board of directors who represent “investors” who care nothing about quality or economy and only about personal profit. These investors demand a hefty return on their dollar. One of the ways to to do this is to reduce the wages of the employees, relax environmental standards, reduce saftey measures, whatever it takes to increase the return on the investment. They produce nothing, they only take. They are parasites on the economy, they are the richest and at the same time the lowest-minded among us.

  • bruske

    Unions have successfully brought down the auto industry in the US and people are going to back them up. What a sad world we live in. More pay for less work instead of hard work for more pay.

    I’ll never agree ore understand why people are lazy when it comes to work.

  • aptimus prime

    Unions are not a matter of left vs. right. Any reasonable person can understand why they desperately need to be reformed or outlawed. First, and most importantly, when unions tell companies “the cost of a strike is x, but the cost of our wages is x-y (y is positive)”. That’s called extortion. It is committed on a massive scale and unions are granted total and complete immunity b/c they convince people that unions are culturally and historically important and therefore their methods should be legally protected. Nothing could be further from the truth. Extortion creates and imbalance between compensation and the value of the labor the unions produce which creates instability within the labor force.

    Second, anyone who’s been exposed to any labor theory in the last 50 years understands that labor theory is actually inherently leftward (so to speak) leaning b/c they’ve found that taking care of employees is cheaper and leads to higher productivity. Mistreating workers leads to high absenteeism and worker turnover which kill companies in the long run. Not to mention that companies who pay poorly can’t recruit. There is very little reason for unions given the data that has been gathered since the 50s and 60s.

    What you come to realize whether left or right is that the ethos and business philosophies of the politicians, the major shareholder, the union bosses, the portfolio managers, and the mortgage executives are inherently flawed. These people are overwhelmingly baby boomers. The machinations of baby boomer culture are unimportant. What is important is that the culture of the-long-run-is-just-a-bunch-of-short-runs must be snuffed out whether it’s unions or mortgage brokers, and these elite baby boomers must be ushered to the nearest nursing home so they cannot involve us in their last desperate grasp for power and wealth. Until the government starts cracking down on these people whether it’s union bosses or bankers, their culture is going to continue to infect all of us.

    The miracle of reducing taxes and raising Federal revenues by 500% has run its course, it is factored into our economy and its effectiveness is relatively poor especially when you have deflationary pressures on the economy. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to clean up Washington and reduce our Federal Tax burden, but we need to find a new Pareto so we can stop the fossilized imbeciles from abusing the same economic stimulus techniques ad nauseum.

  • bruske

    You just impressed me. Now if the rest of the sheep could think for themselves.

  • I can’t believe some of the anti-union ignorance being put forth here. You folks are entitled to your, completely uninformed, opinions, but you also don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about.

    Unions are good for this country, and good for workers. Unions, in part, created the great middle class that was once the backbone of this country.

    Union wages and benefits are good for the country and the economy … They allow union workers to buy homes, cars, and all the good things that build a robust economy. Union wages and benefits allow workers to feed, clothe, and educate their families, which also builds a stronger nation.

    As for Harley … It’s a sad day. Sadder still that the workers could be coerced into accepting this deal.

    Will this make Harley a better company? Will it allow Harley to build better, less costly motorcycles with better technology? Will it benefit the consumer in any way?


    It will, possibly, improve the company’s bottom-line, and earn huge bonuses for Harley’s top execs at the expense of the workers.

    It’s lose-lose.

  • Bjorn

    I’m not privy to the financial state of Harley Davidson, apart from their public statements. If the finances are so rough it justifies cutting wages by nearly 50% and removing the benefits from previously full-time workers; have Keith Wandell and the other board of directors members also taken a radical cut in their salary package in a gesture of solidarity?
    Such an act would add credence to their actions; making it a genuine austerity measure, rather than it just being a grab from those that produce the actual value on which the company turns its profit.

  • Ry_Trapp0

    Hey, you guys do know that there are non-union workers all around this country that make more than minimum wage, right? In fact, the vast majority of working citizens in this country aren’t part of any union, and live a very comfortable life!

    @Doug – Make all the assumptions you want, but may anti-union sentiments are based 100% on the facts. Like I said, I have friends and family that are not only in the unions, but are in the administrative end. My information comes directly from the source. I would give you a list of all of the people I know that are part of a union(mostly family), but it would be a rather large list. Everything from cafeteria workers, to hospitals, to the IBEW, and the UAW, I know people involved in these and more, and ALL of these unions operate in the same exact way. Every single one of them wastes every dollar that they receive from union dues.
    One of my friends(the hospital union rep) made a business trip to DC a few weeks ago. Him self, the couple guys that went with him, and a bunch of people they knew over there went to a bar and racked up an $8,000 tab. Now who do you think paid for that? Lets just say that it was considered a “meet and greet”…
    (again, I’ll stop here before I rant on too long, lol)

  • Skipper

    Who cares – A Harley is only good for making a lot of noise and not much else. 1960’s tech at 2010 prices.

  • Mike L.

    Aptimus: Labor theory, eh? So companies know that treating workers well is in their best interest and are consequently inclined to do so by market forces? I am neither pro nor anti-union, but saying that large companies are predisposed to treat workers well because of some fictional level playing field, competition-for-workers nonsense is just idiocy.

    Union meat packers used to have what was considered a good job. Have you seen what a non-union meat factory looks like today? Well there are really only 6 in the WHOLE UNITED STATES. They are non-union, illegal immigrant hell, and – I assure you- not very pleasant. Big companies eat up the small and these are the results- worse for everyone. This is what is happening in many industries, this one due to corm subsidies, in a nutshell, but there are many similar scams. Ultimately those who hire the best lobbyists will win on so many fronts that they are immune to competition- or reproach.

    The scam is not of market forces, but from control of the entire US and world economies by very few assholes who are screwing you while you defend them. We do not have good, fair people in charge, just greedy whores from whom we need protection.

  • Tom

    I always find it interesting that those whose god is money and whose messiah is Adam Smith have never actually read Wealth of Nations.

    The government of an exclusive company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any country whatsoever. – Adam Smith

  • Many people forget 1 important thing. Workers work for the company, not the union.
    The person (or company) that signs your check is in charge. You are not forced to work there. I am glad that HD stood their ground. Maybe if the unskilled workers, yes assembly work is unskilled, realize that the era of being overpaid, coddled , and feared are over. Businesses need to take back their business. If workers do not like it, move on.

  • Tom

    If Americans do not wake up to realize that people like the above poster are the real enemy to this nation and not some cave dweller is Pakistan, then the US is a doomed empire due to the stupid rot from within.

  • Keith W.

    The problem at H-D it’s the union is bought and paid for by the company and sadly their HR department is also.