Wisconsin Harley workers OK new pact

September 13, 2010 http://detnews.com/article/20100913/AUTO01/9130393

Wisconsin Harley workers OK new pact

Associated Press

Waukesha, Wis. — Harley-Davidson workers in Wisconsin approved a labor contract Monday that included a number of steep concessions after the company threatened to move hundreds of production jobs out of the state.

The proposed seven-year deal includes steep concessions including freezing their pay, slashing hundreds of jobs and assigning large volumes of work to part-time workers. Some 1,140 union members who work at the Menomonee Falls plant in suburban Milwaukee voted on the deal. It was approved by a 55 to 45 percent margin.

Harley-Davidson Inc. executives had said they would move production out of Wisconsin if the contract was rejected. That would have eliminated about 1,350 jobs.

The workers make motorcycle engines in Milwaukee and windshields and other components in the northern Wisconsin city of Tomahawk. Some union members outside the Waukesha County Exposition Center, where the vote was taking place, expressed anger over the motorcycle maker’s contract demands.

Union member Greg Voelzke, 52, said he has worked for Harley-Davidson for 22 years. Voelzke said he voted against the contract because there are no guarantees the company would stay, even with concessions.

"We came to battle today, not for victory, but to fight another day," Voelzke said. He said he did not want to support a contract that offered so little and that he would take his chances the company will renegotiate the deal, even though Harley has said it will not.

"For Sale" signs hung on about a dozen of the approximate 100 Harley motorcycles parked outside the center.

Chief Executive Keith Wandell had urged Wisconsin employees to approve the unpopular contract, which the company called its lone and final offer. He wrote a letter last week telling the workers it’s up to them to decide whether they want to remain part of Harley’s future.

"We are on a course to build a competitive company for the future and a business that is sustainable long term," the letter said. "Nothing can get in the way of this objective."

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