Union workers at Harley-Davidson will vote today on a new seven-year contract that would cut hundreds of full-time employees. The Milwaukee motorcycle giant says it needs to cut over $50 million in labor costs at its plants in Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk. And if the Steelworkers union does not approve the new contract, Harley says it will close the two Wisconsin plants and move the production out-of-state where it’s cheaper.
Kansas City has been mentioned as one possibility. The firm says the new deal would cut 200 full-time jobs at the Menomonee Falls engine plant and 75 jobs in Tomahawk where they make parts like windshields and side-cars. It would also freeze the pay of the remaining full-timers starting in 2012. And it would let Harley use lower-paid seasonal workers to adjust to market conditions. They’d make just over half of what the full-time workers get, with no fringe benefits.
The use of “casual” workers has been a growing trend in large industries. Laura Dresser of the UW Center on Wisconsin Strategy says some companies have found it necessary, while others are just boosting profits or keeping up with competitors who have cut health insurance costs by hiring seasonal workers.