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EDITORIAL: It's hard to celebrate move of 450 Harley-Davidson jobs to York County

York Dispatch
  • Harley-Davidson recently announced that 450 new jobs will be coming to its York County plant.
  • The jobs are coming to York because the company is consolidating operations from its Kansas City plant.
  • The 450 jobs arriving in York will be filled by full-time casual and contract employees.

There are reportedly 450 new jobs coming to York County.

Harley-Davidson recently announced that it is moving 450 jobs from its Kansas City plant to its plant in York County. AP FILE PHOTO

Normally, that would be cause for great celebration.

In this case, however, the celebration should be muted, at best.

That’s because the arriving jobs come with some heavy strings attached.

For those who haven’t heard, Harley-Davidson will consolidate manufacturing operations from its Kansas City, Missouri, plant into its plant in Springettsbury Township.

The company is expected to add 450 full-time employees in York County during the next 18 months, according to spokeswoman Bernadette Lauer.

Harley-Davidson to consolidate Kansas City plant into York County

So, why shouldn’t we be jumping for joy at the possible economic windfall those jobs should bring to our area?

Well, let’s count the ways.

1. York County’s good fortune comes at the expense of some fine folks in Missouri.

It’s hard to feel too upbeat when so many good people in the Midwest are losing their livelihoods.

2. The fact that Harley-Davidson is "consolidating" its Kansas City plant means just one thing — the company as a whole is struggling.

The numbers certainly bear that out. The company’s motorcycle sales are dropping at an alarming rate. In a news release describing its 2017 year-end results, Harley-Davidson reported that sales dropped 6.7 percent worldwide and 8.5 percent in the U.S. compared to 2016.

That kind of performance certainly doesn’t bode well for the company’s long-range financial prospects.

3. Harley-Davidson is well known for pitting communities against one another.

In order to gain concessions from the communities it operates in and/or its work force, the company will often threaten to move its operations elsewhere and take their jobs with them.

Unfortunately, it’s a gambit that often works all too well for Harley-Davidson but not so well for its workers and the communities the company operates in.

In the near future, don’t be surprised if York finds itself in the exact same situation that Kansas City is enduring right now.

It’s just the way Harley-Davidson does business.

4. Finally, Harley-Davidson might well bring 450 full-time jobs to York County, but those jobs will be filled by casual and contract employees.

That is typically code language for lower-paying jobs with few or no benefits and little long-term security.

Harley-Davidson has eliminated more than half its workforce in York County since threatening to move in 2009. Separate layoffs of 118 in 2017 — which occurred when the company decided to stop producing Softail motorcycles in York — and about 100 in 2016 have left the Springettsbury Township plant with about 800 employees, down from nearly 2,000 in 2009.

Harley laying off another 118 in York County

The arriving jobs should boost that number back over 1,200, but how long will it be before the company again slashes that number or again threatens to move without gaining more concessions?

If the past has taught us anything, it won’t be long at all.

That’s why there’s precious little reason for us to celebrate.