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Latest News - November 2010

November 13, 2010
Kohler Co. union negotiations dragging on
Source: Sheboygan Press
By: Sheboygan Press Staff

The first week of union negotiations following Kohler Co.'s announcement of 350 local layoffs yielded no more results than the first 11 weeks.

Company spokesman Todd Weber said negotiations continued Friday and will resume next week between the company and United Auto Workers Local 833, which represents nearly 2,000 active workers.

Monday will begin the 13th week of negotiations and the seventh week since the company and union agreed to extend the prior contract. The extension is indefinite, though either side can opt out with 48 hours notice.

Kohler Co. announced Nov. 3 it would lay off 750 workers worldwide, including 350 in Sheboygan County. Union officials said that included 183 members of the UAW.

Dave Bergene, president of Local 833, said he saw no change in the tenor of contract talks after the layoffs.

"We're negotiating, you know, it's baby steps. Nothing new, nothing exciting," he said.

The company is seeking a five-year wage freeze, substantial increases in health-care premiums and the creation of a two-tiered wage and benefit system that cuts pay by 35 percent for new employees and some returning from layoffs. The company would also like to be able to begin using a limited number of new or laid-off workers as at-will employees, with reduced benefits and restricted union rights.

Kohler officials have maintained that the concessions are essential to keeping the company's Sheboygan County manufacturing plants viable, as those locations are by far the company's most expensive to operate.



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