National News

Unions end two-decade Partnership Agreement with Harley

Posted September 13

— Citing concerns over the way the company is handling seasonal production and a lack of partnership in the decision making process, two major unions are withdrawing from a twenty-two year partnership with Harley Davidson. In a statement issued today by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the United Steelworkers (USW), leaders say they are withdrawing on behalf of their members after a meeting with Harley Davidson CEO Matt Levatich. Employees are still covered under the union contracts, and nothing in those contracts has changed as a result of this announcement.

The unions also say that seniority should be a factor when it comes to job security, rather than leaving it to the whims of management. The company's "surge" production model has been widely criticized by union leaders. Under the surge, production is amped up at certain times of the year, resulting in a need for increased manpower, increased overtime and even the hiring of temporary workers. The company has maintained this model even as wide-reaching layoffs have taken place, including 115 at the company's Springettsbury Township, York County plant.

Harley Davidson says the unions' decision to withdraw will not change the way the company works with employees and union leaders.

"Harley-Davidson is committed to working closely with employees and local union leadership to continue to resolve issues, address challenges and make improvements needed to help move our business forward. And, we remain committed to working with the international union leadership to this end, as well," said the company in a statement.

Earlier this year, the leaders of both the USW and IAM, the major unions representing Harley Davidson workers, condemned the company's decision to manufacture motorcycles in Thailand. Harley says that move is aimed at servicing the Asian market specifically and to avoid high import tariffs. The unions say it takes work away from Americans and diminishes the iconic brand.

With the shifting of the manufacture of Softail Motorcycles to Kansas City, the York County plant is down to about 600 union employees. In 2010, there were about 2,000.

Harley says the company is dealing with significant new challenges to the U.S. motorcycle industry and to their business and that they've made difficult adjustments that the company recognizes have been tough on employees. But the company is committed to building the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally. They believe bringing in new riders, both in the U.S. and internationally, will result in company growth, which will benefit the company and its employees.

According to the union statement, Levatich agreed to work with the unions to resolve staffing issues raised on behalf of full time workers.

Here is the statement from Harley Davidson in its entirety:

For a number of years, Harley-Davidson has had written partnering agreements with the international leadership of the USW and IAM unions. This week, these unions informed Harley-Davidson that they will withdraw from the formal written agreements. The union's decision doesn't change our approach to working with our employees and local union leaders at our U.S. plants.

Harley-Davidson is committed to working closely with employees and local union leadership to continue to resolve issues, address challenges and make improvements needed to help move our business forward. And, we remain committed to working with the international union leadership to this end, as well.

The past several years have brought significant new challenges both to the U.S. motorcycle industry and to our business. We've been working hard to reverse the declining trends, but we've also had to make difficult adjustments impacting many employees in the U.S. It's been tough on our union employees given the number of down days and layoffs, which have had significant personal and financial impacts on them.

Harley-Davidson is absolutely committed to working tirelessly to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally. We believe bringing new riders into the sport here in the U.S. and internationally will result in company growth – and growth is the only path to reverse the conditions we've been facing the past few years.

Here is the unions release in its entirety:

Following discussions yesterday between International Presidents Robert Martinez Jr. and Leo W. Gerard, and union directors, with Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the United Steelworkers (USW) announced on behalf of their members that they are withdrawing from a two-decade old partnership agreement with the company.

The union leaders cited a deep and strong concern with the way Harley management is dealing with seasonal production and no longer sees a sufficient partnership in the decision-making process that existed in prior years. Both unions strongly believe that seniority has to count for something when it comes to job security, instead of leaving it to management discretion alone.

Before leaving the meeting, Levatich agreed to work with the unions to resolve staffing issues raised on behalf of full-time workers, saying the company was open to ways best to run seasonal production.

The IAM is among the largest industrial trade unions in North America, representing nearly 600,000 active and retired members in aerospace, transportation, manufacturing, shipbuilding, woodworking and other industries. Visit GoIAM.org for more information.

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org.

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