Manufacturer News and Motorcycle Laws

Steelworkers explain why they voted down Harley-Davidson’s contract offer

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The union that represents most of Harley-Davidson’s manufacturing plant employees in Wisconsin says the company is out of touch with the workers by making the current contract talks more about an hourly wage than workforce issues.

Last week, United Steelworkers Local 2-209, which represents about 730 employees at Harley’s factory on Pilgrim Road in Menomonee Falls, turned down a five-year contract offer that included a 14 percent wage increase over five years and significant pension enhancements for current employees.

Harley said the average wage for current, regular full-time bargaining unit employees under the first year of the deal would be more than $33 an hour in the Milwaukee area and more than $25 in Tomahawk.

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“We believe the offer is competitive while continuing to provide a stable production environment as we focus on achieving our strategy to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally,” said Michelle Kumbier, Harley’s chief operating officer.


The current seven-year contract was set to expire April 1, but the Steelworkers agreed to extend it until midnight April 14.

Local union officials say one of their biggest issues is Harley’s use of temporary workers who are paid a lower wage than regular full-time employees and don’t get the same benefits.

Some of the temporary workers have been in the Menomonee Falls plant for years, according to Local 2-209.

“Another concern that was brought up was the amount of work that is being moved out of the plants,” said Local 2-209 President Mark Eilers.

There are 637 regular full-time employees at the Milwaukee-area locations, he said, down from 1,250 nine years ago. There are now 270 employees at the Tomahawk plant, down from 370.

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