EDITORIAL: The thrill is gone
- The reduction comes not even a year after Harley signed a new contract with workers.
- There was no mention of pending cuts during recent contract negotiations.
- So much for mending relationship soured by 2009 strong-arm tactics.
A Harley-Davidson is still a thing of beauty, at least for motorcycle enthusiasts
Job security for employees of the iconic bike maker, on the other hand, isn’t what it used to be.
Citing “lagging sales,” the company announced early this month it will eliminate about 200 union jobs across the country, including more than 100 at its Springettsbury Township plant.
The cuts come not even a year after Harley signed a new contract with workers at the local facility, which produces the company’s Touring, Softail, CVO and Trike models.
Union president Brian Zarilla said the new cuts surprised and disappointed the workers.
"When we were negotiating a new contract, business was booming, and we were happy with the deal we reached," said the 28-year Harley employee. "None of this was talked about."
In November, Zarilla hailed the new agreement, calling it a “good contract, a fair contract” that would help mend a relationship strained when the company strong-armed the workers into accepting drastic cuts in 2009.
Back then, the union chief at the time said there was “nothing to like” about that particular deal, which cut Harley’s local workforce from about 1,950 to between 700 and 800 full-time employees.
It also required the remaining workers to pay more for insurance, go without raises, lose vacation time and have fewer paid holidays.
But they approved that contract because Harley-Davidson Inc. had the workers over a barrel.
The company threatened to relocate work at the York County plant to a facility in Kansas City, Missouri, or build a new plant in Kentucky if they didn’t agree to the concessions.
It worked so well, the company pulled the same thing with union workers in Wisconsin and Kansas City.
Harley management told its Wisconsin employees it would move their jobs to Kansas City without concessions, then told its Kansas City workers their jobs could be shipped to … wait for it … York County, Pennsylvania.
The tactics left a bad taste here in York County — and, we can only imagine, in Wisconsin and Missouri — but we got it then, and we get it now.
The company felt it needed to right-size its operations, and it found a threat that worked to compel workers’ support for job cuts and restructuring.
We had hoped the concessions would help Harley expand its market reach and perhaps lead the company to restore those high-value jobs to the local economy.
Now six years later, the company brass is coming back for more of those positions, blindsiding the union in the process.
Like the workers, we’re not happy about the move — but we guess that’s just how Harley rolls these days.