Union workers at the Kohler Company are the latest to accept contract concessions in order to keep their jobs. Members of the United Auto Workers voted 62-to-38 percent Sunday to accept a five-year contract which freezes their wages. It also increases health costs, and pays new-and-temporary workers an average of 35-percent less.
Kohler, a top maker of bathroom and kitchen fixtures, said the contract represented concessions on both sides. Spokesman Todd Weber said it would help Sheboygan County’s largest employer remain viable long into the future.
The union’s leadership had recommended that the 2,200 affected employees vote down the deal. Union president Dave Bergene said he believed their votes were based on how the contract affects them and it was not an endorsement of management.
By accepting the pay freeze, the Kohler workers will get a pair of $1,000 bonuses over the next five years. Bergene said those bonuses probably swayed the vote, and future workers will pay the price. But CEO Herbert Kohler said the Sheboygan County operations would have kept shrinking had the contract been rejected.
The county has lost one-fifth of its manufacturing jobs in the last three years.