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Wisconsin Harley Workers Vote to Save Plants

Monday, September 13, 2010
Harley-Davidson employees from the company’s Milwaukee and Tomahawk plants will vote today on a labor contract aimed at lowering production costs by enacting a seven-year wage freeze and eliminating hundreds of full-time jobs in favor of the use of part-time employees. The Journal

Harley-Davidson employees at two of its Wisconsin plants are faced with difficult decisions today that will ultimately lead to whether or not they stay open.
Sentinel posted a letter issued to Harley-Davidson employees on September 7 from CEO Keith Wandell stating “This vote will determine whether Harley-Davidson production operations stay in Wisconsin or are moved to another U.S. site.” If the contract fails to pass, the letter says “the Board will act the following day on its previous tentative authorization to move and we will immediately move ahead with the process to relocate production operations.”

The Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk plants combined employ approximately 1300 who risk losing their jobs if the contract isn’t approved. The company’s powerplants are produced at the Milwaukee plant while windshields, saddlebags and other fiberglass manufacturing takes place at the Tomahawk facility in northern Wisconsin. The Tomahawk Operations facility was established in 1963.

The proposed contract would subject most long-term workers to a seven-year wage freeze with provisions for tentative raises in the final two years. It calls for the reduction of 200 jobs at Menomonee Falls and about 75 jobs to be slashed at Tomahawk. These positions would be filled by “casual workers” as needed who would receive an estimated $16.80 compared to $30.50 for the same work done by full-time employees. “Casual” employees are not entitled to medical or retirement benefits, they can be terminated without cause, and they are not guaranteed a minimum number of work hours or shifts.

High labor costs in Wisconsin are one of the factors claimed to be forcing Harley-Davidson’s hand, but its modus operandi of issuing ultimatums is an aggressive stance. "We are on a
Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell
Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell has the company's long-term in mind but the short-term decisions are coming at a high cost to morale.
course to build a competitive company for the future and a business that is sustainable long term," Wandell’s letter said. "Nothing can get in the way of this objective."

Workers at Harley-Davidson’s York plant know the plight of the workers at Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk all too well. In December of last year, York employees had to vote on a contract that drastically reduced its workforce in addition to other concessions in order to keep the plant open in Pennsylvania. The letter Harley-Davidson issued to employees at its Wisconsin plants uses York as a point of reference for success stating “… we are seeing great momentum and high levels of engagement from the workforce.”

Harley-Davidson has already scouted out a few alternate sites that could “provide the competitive structure, operating system alignment, flexibility and return on investment that we must have.” Though H-D is mum on exactly where they might move operations to, Kansas City has been mentioned as a potential suitor in internet buzz. Harley’s Vehicle & Powertrain Operations are currently conducted in K.C.
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Rick with a capital "P" -Love it or leave it  September 15, 2010 04:19 AM
suddenly there are a lot of people out there that think they know finance and how to run a company. Quarterly statements, hell yeah!, even mom and pop have to run the corner diner on quarterly statements, if you think otherwise, get off your couch, go take an evening business course at a college since many of you stopped educating at 18 and went in the work force but demand high wages.
arm chair quarterbacks, not sure who all of you work for, but most sound like a statement made by Scottie, "punch out after 8, go have a beer" while those in management stress over quarterly statements to keep you employed and the doors open. for 107 years HD and it's employees have worked through thick and thin, to hear anyone unhappy about that, change jobs and quit your whining, take some classes, make yourself marketable, or go pack groceries!
we give our kids, cell phones, computers, playstations, tv's in their own rooms and whine about the lives we lead. yes, there are people that are struglling, in most cases, I have found those that struggle like all of us have opportunity, but if you don't act on it, blame yourself.
America "love it, or leave it" BUY AMERICAN
just because NAFTA was formed doesn't mean you all had to go buy Hondas and Toyotas, thank you for following the others off the cliff!
merc16 -HD is working to survive in this economy.  September 14, 2010 03:36 PM
Bob, are you saying that Reagan approved NAFTA? It was Clinton. It is like Perry H. stated, you work for someone else you take your chances, you work for your self you take chances. At least they worked out a deal to stay in Wisconsin, in stead of saying," Bye, no negotations. See ya'!". As far as Victory, yes they have good motors, but still not a total package. Thay are not that much cheaper, resale value is the same as import bikes and dealers are few and far between. HD probably doing no different than any other manufacturer in this economy.
Perry H. -Dennis  September 14, 2010 01:54 PM
“I've worked for companies that were owned by families/individuals, non-union and union, and they cared about their employees.” Every business I’ve worked at family owned or not cares about the bottom line first because they are a business; try running one sometime your ass is on the line and you HAVE to make hard decisions out of necessity.

“Are you telling me we can't produce toasters, refidgerators, tools, anything here and do it profitably?" Yes, we can’t do it profitably. Not only does overseas competition have labor forces that will work a full day for less than what you paid for your morning Starbucks but they also have some of their materials and commodities subsidized buy their government, meaning even if our American work force worked for free we would still not be competitive with places like China.

“Years ago an investor was doing good if they got a modest return on the investment over a longer time. Now, if it does do well RIGHT NOW, demand immediate changes or balk and sell.” It was the same then as it is now; greed is impatient.

“There is a saying, "you don't crap where you eat". There is another saying “don’t eat the yellow snow” There is plenty of white snow to eat in this great country of ours many opportunities to get rich or at least comfortable and just because some companies are pissing on some snow doesn’t mean you have to eat it or work for them. Notice that the union AGREED to the new contract because they know it is better than the alternative; finding a new job in this economy while having very limited skills and education. The HD employees should be grateful HD even offered an alternative rather than just leaving WI. Otherwise the HD employees would be changing oil and bagging groceries this winter.

When you work for someone else (rather than for yourself) you have already conceded to help make the people you work for become better off than you. Start your own business, bust your ass, build wealth, give people jobs that other wise would not have this job if you did not start your business and try to stay profitable with the ever rising costs of doing business. After that you won’t want to hear any lip from some employee who thinks he or she should be getting more even though they are paid a fair and competitive wage.

Dennis, if you want it all, if you want yours, you want “fairness” then grab the bull by the horns and start your own business and see where it leads you. But if you are going to ride someone else’s coat tails and then piss, moan and cry about the American dream shrinking first take a look at how hard you pursued the American dream.
Bob -Agree with Dennis and JR  September 14, 2010 01:43 PM
But I'd like to add that our government is responsible for a lot of the blame too. In fact it started during Reagan's administration. While I'm for free trade, NAFTA was the starting point for America turning into a 3rd world country.

Until our government starts making it less financially attractive to send all of our manufacturing overseas by levying steep tarriffs on imported goods and increasing taxes on companies that deliberately outsource work (labor and goods) to overseas companies, there won't be anything left that's made in USA. Jobs are becoming more scarce and the one's available don't pay what they used to. I'm an engineer of 24 years and even my company (Nabors) is having engineering work done in India as we speak. Not sure when i'll be replaced at the rate things are going. When our kids are ready for college, should we bother sending them? Will there be jobs for them when they graduate? Not looking like it.

As of right now, we're incredibly dependent on other countries to supply us with our needs. Until our government's greed is put aside. We won't see jobs come back to the USA and we won't ever see our quality of life back where it was. No one wants this "global economy" or "world government." I feel sorry for the next generation. They haven't even gotten started and the odds ar against them.
Dennis -good point  September 14, 2010 08:15 AM
Your are correct, the stockholders own the company(sometimes).
And what do the stockholders care about?
A good quarterly statement.
Never mind their neighbors. Never mind the country. Never mind anything else, just give that good quarterly statement. Period.
I've worked for companies that were owned by families/individuals, non-union and union, and they cared about their employees. Whether they were hourly or salary, they were treated and paid well and the companies did well. Everyone won.
Now, it isn't like that(see The Quarterly Statement).
Turn back the clock to WWII. To see the production figures during those years is a truly astounding thing. It is truly amazing how much material the U.S. work force produced.
Why can't we do that now? Are you telling me we can't produce toasters, refidgerators, tools, anything here and do it profitably?
The problem is the investors want to high a profit too fast.
Years ago an investor was doing good if they got a modest return on the investment over a longer time. Now, if it does do well RIGHT NOW, demand immediate changes or balk and sell.
What they are doing is just as much American(being capitalist) as it is un-American(destroying the American industrial base).
Can you imagine how business would have been vilified by the politians of the day during the WWII years, the years of the "Greatest Generation"?
What they are doing is almost as bad a what our enemies want to do to us.
There is a saying, "you don't crap where you eat".
Until Big Business realises that they live here too, in America, it will only get worse.
If you don't want to produce your products here, move, get out. Stop taking advantage of the American people. We will work for you, but we need to be faily compensated too.
I find it very interested the backlash going on in China right now(it's about time!) by their workers. They are just as tired of getting being taken advantage of as well. And they should be.
Anyway, I could go on, but I gotta go.
We need to wake up and take care of America or we'll end up a third world country. Heck were almost there already.
Scottie -Who owns it?  September 14, 2010 07:14 AM
Who owns the company - the employees or the stockholders? Stockholders. Wandell is making a nice living, but he was making a lot of money over at Johnson Controls before the H-D board, elected by the stockholders, the owners, hired him. He did not earn $6.5 million last year. His base was $650k, bonus $780k and the rest is deferred performance based compensation. It had to be booked as an expense, but he may never see a dime of that. Frankly, his base is pretty low for a $4 billion company. This guy went to college, got his MBA and has this company on his mind 24/7 while someone on the assembly line can clock out, forget about it and toss back a couple of beers. Unions issued ultimatums to companies for years and it ended up costing companies like GM $80/hr. to employ someone on the factory floor. Now the ultimatums are going the other direction.
JR -Corporate America needs to make a decision also..  September 13, 2010 10:56 PM
What's going on at Harley Davidson, continues to go on all over America regarding more work for less wages. The cost of living has not gone down just the opposite. So at some point, if not already the buying capacity is going to flat line and stop. America needs to take care of America and put people back to work. Just maybe in November a loud message will be sent, because the American middle class worker can't put up with much more of this unemployment crap.
Dennis -big business is killing America  September 13, 2010 08:03 PM
This is just another example of American Big Business destroying the sovereignty and quality of life in America by looking at the bottom line(the quarterly statement). When are Americans going to wake up and realise that you cannot live on $10.00 an hour? How does this make America a better more sucessful country? The divide between the rich and poor called the middle class is evaporating at a rapid rate. People who make less money, spend less and pay less taxes. This good for America??? Don't be fooled that HD isn't making money. They just want to make MORE money by taking advantage of their workers. You won't see the non hourly workers taking the hit on this, nor the share holders. Just the hourly paid people, the working people.
I don't know what the average wages of the workers in those plants are, but I'd be very suprised if they make what mr.wildpig thinks they do. It's no different with the big auto makers. Those workers don't make nearly what the general public thinks they do. When business quotes an hourly wage figure, it always includes what it costs to insure and train those same workers so it sure looks like they make a ton. I'm not saying they don't get paid well, but it's always easy for the have-nots to complain about the good deal that the haves get.
By going to part time or temp workers, they lower the living standards of everyone in the markets those workers are from by those same workers having less to spend. And lets not even get into the health care issue.
Where do you think those items Milwaukee Mike mentioned(t-shirts, mugs, etc.)? I'll give you one guess where they come from. China or some other third world country, but not the U.S.
I've owned several HD's and have no beef with their bikes. But it always rubbed me raw that they milk their customers(and America) by selling stuff made elsewhere and then jump on the "Made in America" band wagon so their customers can pound their chests about how they ride "American" bikes. It's pathetic.
I'm not dissing anyones opinions here as you all have a right to them. But this is just another example of the American working class(and America itself) getting screwed by Big Business to make their share holders fat and happy while the rest of us slowly become poorer.
On the North/South thing mr wildpig, I know that there are many factories that pay well in the Southeast.
Would it be better if HD shutter these Northern plants, more them down South and then pay everyone half the wages? I realise that a crappy job is better than no job, but how long do you think would be before they got tired of paying those lower wages and moved production overseas? Don't doubt it could happen, because it has in the past.
We seem to never learn from the past the mistakes we've made and just make 'em all over again.
Sorry about the length and twist to this, but this thing just ticks me off.
wildpig -mr wildpig to you  September 13, 2010 06:26 PM
wonder what the hourly wage is for the standard hd worker? we dont have much factorys down SOUTH cuz of the yankee discrimination which has existed since before 1776 to the present day...... im not sympathic to and worker with a ged making 50 bux an hr with total benefits................ course the motor company quit givin a dam bout the biker since what 1997?
Milwaukee Mary -HD  September 13, 2010 03:40 PM
Harley is just going to lay low until generation X is in their 50s and in the mean time sell LOTS and LOTS of t-shirts, coffee mugs, and toilet seat covers. Just wait until then because the Tri-cam 122 will be in production; even though it won’t have three cams or 122 cu. in. but it sounds cool and high-tech. Besides, Harley only needs to sell 10 bikes per year and they would still make a profit because the tooling has been long since paid for. I have faith in HD, they’ve managed to fool the motorcycling public for 107 yrs. with their product marketing and there is no reason they can’t do it for another 107 yrs.
Mike in WV -Milwaukee Mike???  September 13, 2010 02:08 PM
OK Milwaukee Mike, what do you have to say for your beloved Motor Co now? You have berated every other motorcycle company out there and now everyone sees as those of us have long known, HD is in major financial trouble. Other companies are expanding at a controled rate and not flooding the market. Companies like Polaris are continuing to lead in design and innovation. HD couldn't even produce an all new power plant...they opted to go the cheap route and just increase the bore of their 96 to make it a 103. Not much room to grow there. Victory's 106 has 2 different bore choices, one pumping out 92hp and the other an impressive 97hp. HD's numbers still don't match up. Old technology and no new design (a trunk on the Road Glide is not new design)measn that HD's priorities is not forward thinking. That fat lady sitting on the back of all those old HD bikes is singing. lol