Harley workers voting today, company could decide on new location tomorrow

Harley-Davidson Inc.’s hourly employees from metro Milwaukee are voting today whether to accept the company’s “best and final” offer from the company. If the workers do not approve the new contract, the company will meet tomorrow to decide where the company will move its Wisconsin manufacturing operations to.

“While we hope to come out of the September 13th vote with ratified contracts, if they are rejected, 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,” Keith Wadell, Harley’s CEO wrote in a letter to all hourly employees.

“Our analysis of alternative sites is essentially complete and we have a short list of finalists. The alternate site options provide the competitive structure, operating system alignment, flexibility and return on investment that we have, including significant annual cost savings …”

Voting by Milwaukee-area employees began at 7 a.m. this morning at the Waukesha County Expo Center.

The proposed contract includes the creation of a two-tiered workforce, the elimination of some jobs, severance payments and the hiring of “casual” employees who will receive no benefits.

About 1,400 Wisconsin union workers of Harley met last week to learn about the wage and benefit concessions the company says it needs.

Sources told BizTimes Friday that many employees are “angry and disappointed” about the company’s demands, but union leaders are guardedly optimistic the contract will be ratified.

The tentative contract agreed to by the company and union’s bargaining committees calls for the hiring of seasonal employees who will be paid $16.80 an hour, compared with $30.50 for regular, full-time employees.

The proposal calls for creating a two-tier labor force in which regular employees would see no general wage increases in the second, third and fourth years of the contract. In the sixth and seventh years of the contract, wages could be increased commensurate to prevailing wages in the region. The company would retain the right to terminate the “casual” employees at any time.

Current full-time employees could receive a $12,000 one-time severance payment.


Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display