Kohler Co. and UAW reach tentative contract agreement

Union members will vote today

Kohler alternator assembly
A Kohler employee assembles an alternator.

Kohler Co. and leaders of the United Auto Workers Local 833 Tuesday night jointly announced that they have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract that would end the strike by the UAW.

The final decision is up to union members who will vote on the contract today. The membership meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. The contract would cover 2,000 Kohler Co. employees.

Kohler alternator assembly
A Kohler employee assembles an alternator.

The agreement features increased wages and benefits in all four years of the agreement, according to a statement from the company and the UAW. No details were provided.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement that recognizes the contributions of our associates and positions our local, Wisconsin operations to be more competitive in the future,” said Kohler Co. president and Chief Executive Officer David Kohler. “The common ground that we share is more important than any differences we may have – and this agreement reflects that.”

Kohler workers at plants in the Village of Kohler and north of Sheboygan went on strike in mid-November, the first strike at the company since 1983.

One of the biggest issues for the workers was a two-tier wage structure implemented five years ago. Under that structure, newer employees are paid at lower rates than employees that have been with the company for decades.

“We worked very hard to reach an agreement that addresses all of the key areas crucial to the future of our members,” said UAW Local 833 President Tim Tayloe. “The agreement significantly brings one tier associate pay closer to the other, while also providing substantial wage increases in each year of the contract. All benefits have been enhanced and the modifications to the health care plans have reduced the potential for increased out-of-pocket costs to our membership.”

The company has a global workforce of 33,000, with 13 manufacturing facilities in the United States and 48 globally. In a column he wrote recently for the Sheboygan Press, David Kohler said that Sheboygan County is the company’s highest-cost manufacturing location in the world.

See more in a report from WISN-TV Channel 12, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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