Oh boy… here we go.
Union workers at Kohler Co. strongly rejected the company’s contract offer, approving the first strike at the Sheboygan County manufacturer since 1983.
United Auto Workers Local 833, which represents the workers, announced late Sunday morning that the paper balloting showed 94% of workers were in favor of the strike. An estimated 1,800 workers had attended Sunday’s membership meeting at Sheboygan South High School, and as they left they cited multiple problems with the company’s offer, ranging from what they described as an inadequate pay increase, higher health care costs and continuation of a two-tier wage scale.
The action potentially idles some 2,100 production employees at Kohler’s huge plumbing-ware foundry in the Village of Kohler and at a generator plant north of Sheboygan.
The local’s leadership had sharply criticized what the company termed its “last, best and final contract offer.”
Kohler, the 142-year-old company now headed by a fourth generation of the Kohler family, has a history of both paternalism and tough dealing with unions. The proposal called for three raises of 50 cents each — about 2% a year — for four-fifths of its workforce.
The offer raised health care costs but included a $1,200 bonus that the company said could cover the increase.
Significantly, the proposal continued a two-tier wage system that pays newer employees — about 20% of the workforce — far less than their co-workers.
This will hurt Wisconsin’s economy. Hopefully they resolve it soon.