Kohler union employees postpone new contract vote because of weather

United Auto Workers Local 833, which represents about 2,000 employees of the Kohler Co., cancelled its vote on the company’s proposed contract because of the weather. The union’s web site says that the vote, which was due to take place Sunday, will be rescheduled for another date.

Kohler’s proposed contract freezes wages for its unionized labor force for five years, expanded employee contributions to health care costs, and the creation of a two-tiered salary structure.

It also calls for expanded use of temporary workers in manufacturing operations.

Kohler officials say they need to freeze wages because of the reduced demand for the company’s plumbing fixtures during the recession and because of the high wages that factory workers are earning now.

“This location has grown increasingly noncompetitive over the past decade,” said Herb Kohler, chairman and chief executive officer of the company in a letter to the company’s employees. “The manufacture of many new products has gone elsewhere and products made here can no longer compete. Unless we change, this location will continue to shrink and will cease to be a source of opportunity for existing associates, associates on layoff, and future generations. It is my goal to take the steps necessary to ensure that this location is competitive and viable for the future, while minimizing the impact on current associates.”


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