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