According to a report from sheboyganpress.com, United Auto Workers, Local 833, which represents 2,100 employees, voted to reject Kohler’s “last, best and final offer” as the union’s contract expired over the weekend. As a result, Kohler employees decided to go on strike, Monday, Nov., 16.
Among the major sticking points that have left the two sides at an impasse is a two-tiered wage structure that union leaders say has created significant pay disparities among employees performing similar work.
Union members agreed to the two-tiered wage structure in 2010 with the economy in the depths of the worst recession in a generation.
That system left about 450 so-called Tier B workers earning an average of $12.50 to $13 an hour, versus about 1,600 or so Tier A workers, who earn $21-22 per hour on average, Local 833 President Tim Tayloe said.
The UAW has proposed phasing that system out over a six-year period, and union officials have pointed to several large U.S. manufacturers, including GM, Fiat Chrysler and Ford, who have agreed to or are in the process of dropping similar wage structures as the economy has improved.
Kohler rejected the idea and has said it’s hoping to balance the needs of the company to reinvest in its current sites with contract terms agreeable to the union.
In a recent statement from Kohler Co., the company expressed disappointment that its offer was not accepted by its associates and is concerned that Union officials may have misrepresented what could be achieved in a strike. Kohler states that its offer is a fair one that seeks to maintain local jobs above the region’s norm, supports continued permanent job growth at its Wisconsin operations and ensures all associates are financially ahead each year of the contract term.
Kohler Co. will be informing production associates that they are welcome to report to work as normal, and if they do, they will receive their current wage and benefits. The company is prepared to implement plans to ensure that all customer product and service needs are met.
For more on the Kohler contract details, read here.