You guessed it – Harley-Davidson is in the midst of negotiations with their union workers, whose current labor contract expires in April 2012. It’s no secret that the global powersports market has been hammered by the global economic downturn, and no segment is feeling the pinch more than the heavyweight cruiser market, which Harley dominates. Harley is asking their unions for cost concessions and scheduling flexibility to better meet seasonal demand; the machinist’s union, which represents Harley’s line workers, has been silent on the issue.
Harley-Davidson has set a deadline of mid-September to come to terms with the machinist’s union, otherwise they’ll begin a shutdown of Milwaukee operations required in advance of relocation. Given that Harley-Davidson has been a part of Milwaukee history since their founding in 1903, it’s hard to imagine the company picking up stakes and heading south. In addition to manufacturing, Milwaukee is home to their corporate headquarters and the Harley Davidson Museum, so things won’t be quite as simple as shifting production from one plant to another.
In April, Harley-Davidson announced targeted production cost cutting of $54 million, necessitated by falling sales of their motorcycles. Since 2009, the company has shed sportbike maker Buell, laid off hundreds of workers and put exotic bike brand MV Augusta up for sale. Critics panned Harley Davidson for killing the Buell brand instead of spinning it off to Bombardier, who had expressed interest in the acquisition.