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Harley Davidson’s workers, through the assistance of three Wisconsin unions, will keep their jobs, courtesy of a new labor contract passed in September 2010.  This new contract will result in what’s being called “steep concessions”.  The company played hard ball in its negotiations, says career coach and founder.  With threats of moving hundreds of jobs out of its home state of Wisconsin, employees felt a lot of pressure to get a new contract in place or risking a local economy that would have otherwise crashed and burned.  Here are a few of the highlights of this newly trimmed contract:

  • Employees will see their salaries frozen with no raises in the foreseeable future.
  • Hundreds of production jobs are now a thing of the past, being cut in their totality as a part of the negotiations.
  • Part time workers will now see their responsibilities increase as the company shifts many tasks to those who, while on the payroll, may not be entitled to some of the benefits full time employees enjoy.
  • The contract saves, at least in the short term, more than 1,350 jobs.
  • The contract doesn’t kick in until April 2012 and will be in place for seven years.

As A. Harrison Barnes explains, many employees felt that they had to approve the deal or see their communities suffer.  In Tomahawk, the Harley Davidson plant is the only game in town.  This plant manufactures windshields and other parts used on the American icon while the Milwaukee plant manufacturers the actual engines used in the motorcycles.

The company is declaring a winning solution for both sides and released a statement saying, in part, “Today’s outcome is a significant step toward creating the competitive, flexible operations that are essential to the company’s future”.

The unions say workers felt threatened and one spokesperson said he “grudgingly” encouraged workers to approve the deal.  It passed in Milwaukee with 55% and in Tomahawk, the contract passed with 73% of the voters’ acceptance.  While workers were concerned about the lack of adequate pay raises and other considerations, the deal they signed was the company’s bottom line.

While many sympathize with the workers who feel they were cornered, others are quick to point out the still-sky high unemployment numbers and say anyone who’s not willing to work within the confines of the contract, there are many more who will.

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