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Dan Edgar, Springettsbury resident, brings more kerosene for the heaters, as fellow Harley-Davidson employees continue picketting in front of the Springettsbury plant, Sunday, February 11, 2007. From left, Hollis Mull, from York City, Dwayne Franklin, Dover, and Marlin Gross, from Spring Garden Township, arrived at 9am to picket for their 3 hour "shift". (John Boal photo)
Harley-Davidson worker Patty Urey said she's risking a lot by standing on the picket line.

"I don't want this, I could lose my house," said Urey, who lives in Brogue. "You've got people who have been here 30 years. They've got money saved up. I don't. It's going to be rough for me."

But a week and a half after she voted strike, Urey said she thinks the financial risk she and the rest of the union are taking is worth it.

"I did what I did because I thought it was right for the people," Urey said.

But the convictions of all of the 2,800 striking union members at Harley-Davidson could face a major financial test this week, when for the first time since the strike began on Feb. 2 workers will not receive their weekly paycheck.

Last week workers received their last paycheck for the workweek that ended the day before the strike began. Workers will receive union-funded strike pay, but it won't kick in
for two more weeks, said Tom Boger, business representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 175.

Must pay for health care: Even when strike pay does kick in, Boger has said it is a "pittance" compared to the full salaries the workers rely on.

Today also marks the first day workers will have to begin paying the entire cost of their health-care coverage, because the company says it will not pay for the benefits during the strike.

Union workers will have the option to elect into COBRA health insurance coverage, but they will have to pay about $238 for individual coverage through the end of February and $640 for family coverage, according to Harley-Davidson officials. Beginning March 1, the union workers will pay COBRA premiums of $461 for individual coverage and $1,252 for family coverage.

Harley-Davidson announced it would stop paying for the health insurance at the company's last negotiation session with the union Wednesday. Boger said yesterday that no new negotiations have been scheduled.

But union member Mike Wills of York City said workers knew that the company would eventually halt health care payments if the strike persisted.

Without any paychecks, Wills said he's hoping his federal income tax return will help pay the bills while the strike continues.

"I'll be all right ... for a while," he said.

Trying to stay busy: Meanwhile workers say they are trying to keep themselves busy during the strike. Each union member is required to stand on the picket line for at least one three-hour shift a week, but otherwise many of the workers are finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands.

Some standing on the picket line last night said they're trying to keep themselves busy by doing things that don't cost money, such as watching television, going to the gym or playing video games.

Paul Kinley, of New Bridgeville in Chanceford Township, said he's been working on the window trim at his home and taking on some other neglected chores.

"I've been getting a lot of stuff done around the house; finishing up all the stuff you just don't have time to do in an evening," Kinley said.

But Kinley said he hopes the strike won't continue long.

"We want to get back," said union member Melanie Neff of New Oxford, Adams County. But Neff said the health insurance the company is offering is a "big issue" and the union also doesn't want to see the wages and pension plans cut for new workers.

"We're just looking out for the little guy," Neff said.

-- Reach Brock Parker at 505-5434 or bparker@yorkdispatch.com.
About Harley
--- Number of union employees: There are about 2,800 hourly employees in the Local Lodge 175 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at Harley-Davidson. Another 450 salaried employees include administrators, engineers, accountants, etc. The company is the second largest employer in York County.
--- Facilities in York: Harley-Davidson established its local assembly plant in 1973, on more than 230 acres in Springettsbury Township, according to its Web site. The York County operation is the largest manufacturing facility in the company, employing about half of the company's production work force.

--- Bikes produced per year: There were 349,196 motorcycles made companywide in 2006, a 6.1 percent increase compared to last year's 329,017.
--- Companywide profits: $1.04 billion in 2006, up 8.7 percent from 2005.

The company's proposal
--- Wages: 4 percent wage increase in each of the three contract years. Of the 4 percent wage hike, 2 percent for each year is dependent on the union accepting the company's salaried employee health care plan or another plan that would save the company an equal amount of money.

--- Health care: Union workers would have to take one of three salaried employee health care plans. Under the plan that is used by the most salaried workers, union employees would pay an annual maximum in deductibles and co-pays of $900 for individual coverage and $1,800 for family coverage, the company said. Compared to the union workers' current plan, that's an increase of $400 for individuals and $800 for families.

Workers would continue to have no monthly premium for health care coverage, the company said.

Union officials have said they'd be willing to work with the company if there was a health care crisis, but the company has rebuffed those offers and told union officials there's no crisis yet.

--- Pension/401K issues: New employees would not receive pension contribution matches from the company, according to union officials. The company said the proposal would have doubled the company's 401K contribution match and would have provided a special monthly retirement supplement for certain employees who retired during the contract period. The company has declined to elaborate.

--- Two-tier system: The proposal calls for a second-tier wage and benefit plan for new employees hired after Feb. 2. For example, under the two-tier structure, new assembly worker hires would earn $18.25 per hour, compared to $20.78 per hour under the expired contract.

Source: Harley-Davidson press release and union officials