Harley, union have deal to keep it in Milwaukee

By Associated Press
Posted Sep. 3, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.

Harley-Davidson Motor Co. and its union leaders reached a proposed labor agreement Friday that could keep manufacturing operations and hundreds of jobs in Wisconsin.

The proposal still needs to be ratified by union workers and approved by the motorcycle company’s board. Workers are expected to vote on the contract Sept. 13.

Harley had previously said labor costs at its operations in Milwaukee and Tomahawk were too high. The company threatened to move production to Kansas City, Mo., or another U.S. city if Wisconsin workers wouldn’t agree to labor concessions.

The company declined to reveal the terms of the proposed contract.

“I can tell you it includes competitive compensation, and it also gives the company the flexibility it needs to remain competitive,” company spokesman Bob Klein said.

Mike Masik, who represents Harley’s largest union, declined comment until he could discuss the contract with his members next week.

“My membership will make their choice, and they’ll let me know what they want me to do,” said Masik, the president of the local chapter of the United Steelworkers International Union.

The Wisconsin facilities have 1,340 active employees, Klein said. He left open the idea that there could be job reductions, even if the contract is approved.

“I can’t predict what the future will be or where the economy will be in another year,” he said.

Shares of Harley were up 99 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $27.13 in regular trading Friday. After Harley’s announcement late Friday, shares dipped 4 cents in after-hours trading.

Harley-Davidson has operations in Kansas City and York, Pa., but its threat to move its remaining manufacturing facilities out of Wisconsin seemed especially jarring. The company has been an icon there since it was founded 107 years ago, and its reputation became so intertwined with the city that its bikes were known as “Milwaukee Iron.”

The Harley-Davidson Museum is among the city’s most popular tourist destinations, and when the company turned 105 two years ago, some 100,000 fans from around the world descended on the city for the celebration.

Harley has consistently said it wants to remain in Wisconsin. But officials said the production schedule needed to more closely align with seasonal demand, a change that would require approval from labor unions.

In December, the company and its union agreed to a cost-cutting contract at its York plant that involved layoffs for about half the company’s unionized workforce there.

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One comment:

  1. IXLR8 Sep. 4, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Union Negotiations: When I start to feel the heat, I begin to see the light.