Feb 1, 2007

Employees Locked Out At Harley Davidson

As of Thursday morning the 2,700 employees of the York, Pa. Harley Davidson Plant was locked out. According to articles, written by Andrea Maria Cecil in Sunday’s and today’s York Daily Record, 98% of the members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 175 voted on Wednesday to reject Harley’s latest proposal and initiate a strike at 12:01 am. Friday.

At this time the terms of the proposed contract have not been disclosed, but a reader has commented that the company has requested employees accept a higher share of medical costs and reduced pension benefits. There was no reference to wages other than Harley had requested that new hires may be brought in at about ½ the current wage. As quoted by David J. Lynch,
published in the Aug. 17, 2006 issue of USA TODAY:

The venerable motorcycle maker, battered by Japanese rivals, came within an eyelash of bankruptcy in 1985. Harley slashed payroll, overhauled its factories and engineered a remarkable turnaround. The company has been profitable for 20 years and, in a nice irony, now enjoys the largest market share in Japan.”

This is the same plant that President Bush visited:

“Harley-Davidson's example also is something less than a pure free-trade success. In 1983, the company won special trade protection from the Reagan administration that raised tariffs on imported Japanese bikes to 49% from 4%. That gave Harley critical time to retool.”

“The president said such temporary protection is sometimes warranted. And Harley's robust workforce of more than 9,000 — roughly double the 1995 figure — underscores the point.”

In a company statement:

"Because of the union's intent to strike at midnight, not knowing how long that would last, we thought it was in the best interests of everyone to suspend badges and eletronic access to the facility, essentially giving employees a second day off with pay."

As quoted from The Auto Channel:

"Harley-Davidson has no business behaving like they're on the brink of bankruptcy," said Tom Buffenbarger, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). "When Harley was flat on its back in the 1980's, it was union members who refused to let it die. Harley went on to become an international success story but they've obviously forgotten how they got this far."

"They don't respect workers as much as their stock options," declared District 98 Directing Business Representative Tom Boger about company leaders who reported record revenue of more than $1.6 billion for the third quarter of last year.

At this point all parties need to take a step back. There are many communities that would pay Harley mucho buckos to move to their community. Google just received
$100 million in tax discounts from North Carolina for a 215 employee server farm. We are in a highly competitive era and companies have more options than ever before. Someone has to give and I seriously hope it’s not the 2,700 workers at the York Harley plant. There just aren’t comparable jobs out there.