Shouts and cheering erupted at the Local 1947 Labor Lodge in Fond du Lac as union heads announced the rejection of Mercury Marine’s proposed contract changes Sunday. Russell Krings the regional representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers told the gathering that the company’s proposal was voted down by a “wide margin.”
Company officials had said that a yes vote would have meant keeping the current 850 manufacturing jobs at the Fond du Lac plant and bringing in about 200 jobs from Stillwater, Oklahoma. However Krings says Mercury did not provide a guarantee.
“We got a piece of a paper from them stating they are going to bring some work up. They didn’t tell us when they’re going to bring it up (from Stillwater),” says Krings about a lack of specifics in the proposal.
Mercury President Mark Schwabero says whether other jobs from the headquarters will follow to Stillwater is still to be determined. He says consolidating the manufacturing jobs to Stillwater will be done between 24 to 36 months. He says anywhere from 0-to-200 manufacturing jobs will remain in Fond du Lac after the consolidation and decision about other positions at the headquarters plant will be announced before the end of the summer. The firm says most of the 900 headquarters’ jobs could move with the production to Oklahoma, or to Illinois, where Mercury’s parent company Brunswick is based.
Prior to Sunday’s vote people in support of both the union and Mercury Marine rallied. Benjamin Benzel, one of the union workers laid off by Mercury, calls the contract changes “extortion.”
AUDIO: Benzel on contract proposal (MP3 :15)
Scott Swick organized a rally designed to show support for the community and to keep Mercury in Fond du Lac.”We are not against any side. We are for Fond du Lac,” says Swick.
There’s still a slight possibility the two parties could get together because the contract proposal is valid until Saturday, but both sides expressed little desire to hold any more bargaining sessions. Elected leaders are still holding out hope though.
” I can understand ways there is a feeling of mistrust on both sides right now and I would strongly encourage labor and management to return to the table and return to the table over the next week until that deadline is reached, ” says State Senator Randy Hopper.
Governor Jim Doyle says he’ll fight to keep Mercury Marine in Wisconsin, but the union and management would have to resolve their differences.
Manufacturing employees will continue to work under the terms of the existing union contract, which expires in 2012.
Bob Nelson-KFIZ contributed to this report