Bye Bye York

November 18, 2009

All Posts, News

For the last 36 years York, Pennsylvania has been famous for three things: Peppermint Patties, Barbells and Harleys. Now it is starting to look like the motorcycles will be moving to Shelby County, Kentucky.

Harley-Davidson has been threatening to close its York assembly plant since last May. In 1972, American Machine and Foundry (now it is just AMF) the company that then owned Harley-Davidson converted an idle bowling equipment factory into an assembly plant for motorcycles. The plant now builds Softails and touring bikes.

It was state of the art when it opened in 1973. Last Spring, Harley-Davidson spokesman Bob Klein said the York plant is obsolete. “It relates to excess capacity. It relates to competitive and cost pressures both in the current economy and longer term,” Klein said.


The York plant employs about 2,400 workers who each make about $23 an hour, or about $45,000 a year. Harley thinks its workers should make less and has proposed ways to “cut costs” with the plant’s largest union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Early in negotiations, according to published sources, Harley proposed that new hires be paid $14.65 an hour or about $30,000 a year. Or, looking at it another way, Harley proposed that its workers should be paid about $6,000 less than the manufacturer’s suggested price of a 2010 Ultra Classic Electra Glide before sales tax, registration and dealer fees.

The current union contract expires next February. Workers are expected to vote on a proposed agreement next month. Harley has said it will announce whether it is staying in York or moving to Kentucky after the vote.

In September, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell offered Harley $15 million in taxpayer-funded incentives to modernize of the plant.

Come On Down

About two weeks ago Harley executives met with Kentucky Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes and several Republican State Senators. Hayes refused to disclose the incentives his state is offering. If Harley thinks the deal is sufficiently sweet, it will build a new plant in Shelbyville and hire about 1,500 new workers.

This week, Kentucky State Senator Gary Tapp told Maureen Hagrman of television station WHAS, “I’m excited. The community is excited. No negative on this one.” Tapp talked like a man who knows the deal has already been made. “Get the okay. Break ground in January.” He tersely explained. “First roll over in 18 months.”

There will be a public hearing tomorrow night at Shelby County High School to discuss a zoning change for a parcel of farmland now owned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad. That is where Harley would build the new plant.

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41 Responses to “Bye Bye York”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Harley lets me down more and more as time progresses.

  2. Swampy Says:

    I had heard earlier this year that Harley had planned on cutting production by 13%. However, I didn’t realize the impact of that cut upon the workers. It looks like the only kiss they’re gonna get is behind the ear.

  3. sled tramp Says:

    Harley’s gone from scraping the sky to playing handball against the curb.I’s like to see S&S go partners with Baker Drivetrain and blow the Motor Company to Hell.I’m on my 18th Sled.I’ll never buy new again, from now on I’m building it like the old days…

  4. Damon Says:

    I’m with you, tramp. I’m building the next one.

  5. JAMES Says:

    I wonder if they will treat the employees in KY. like the coal mine companies, company stores and housing, were the wages barely paid the cost to live there. Sort of like a documentary that was on t.v. awhile back where the company shit all over the employees who lived in slumlike conditions as they meaning the company owned the houses and stores.

  6. Rebel Says:

    Dear James,

    While I was writing this story I kept remembering all the guys I have known in my life who have had “Harley-Davidson” tattooed on their arms. And, I was thinking how glad I am that I never got that one.

    your pal,

  7. cdgridr Says:


  8. sled tramp Says:

    In 36 years, I’ve never owned a Harley (official motor company licensed or we’ll burn yer soul product) shirt.Nor do I have a Harley Davidson sticker on any of my vehicles.I’ve always figured the fact that I constantly ride a Harley implies a certain level of product endorsement. I do however, have a winged Harley emblem tattooed on my arm. I’m thinking perhaps I should cut it out and invert it as a sign of distress.Just trying to do my little part for the greater good…..
    sled tramp

  9. DOC Says:

    Hold on a minute guys………… It’s not a done deal and I’ betting they stay in York.

    FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY – Governor Steve Beshear has expressed doubt that Kentucky will land a Harley-Davidson manufacturing plant.

    The governor released a statement Thursday saying the potential for pulling off a deal with the company is “significantly diminished.”

    The company has been looking at a site in Shelbyville for a motorcycle plant that employs 2,500 people.

    The governor has put lawmakers on notice that he might call them into special session in December to consider an incentive package for the company, which also had been looking at keeping the current plant in York, Pennsylvania..

    Beshear said Kentucky recruiters would continue to court the company until a final decision is made.

    The company had also been considering sites near Kansas City, Missouri., plant; in Shelbyville, Ind.; and in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

    You might also consider that the reasons A.M.F. built a state of the art plant in York PA about 35 years ago and moved final assembly to that site are the same reasons stated by the current management company
    for moving now. So before you take a hot iron to that harley tato, give it a chance

    yours in commerce

  10. sled tramp Says:

    I’m not concerned where they move to or if they don’t move.I’m just tired of the American worker taking it in the ass.Since Harley is apparently on record as saying they pay their workers too much and the current economy and scarcity of jobs put families in a bind career wise that employers can exploit, now’s a perfect timne to put the screws to the workers.THAT’S what I’m irked about.
    sled tramp

  11. DOC Says:

    Dear Sled Tramp

    define exploitation …………….. these guys are working under a negociated union contract. Nobody held a gun. I was in the same place when I was a Teamster,and when I worked as an air craft mechanic I was a member of the same union they are, the IAMAW. Damn near everybody in the avaition industry got laid off during the fuel shortages of the early 70’s. I get it about how tragic it is when a family of four looses 75% of it’s take home. Believe me I do.

    That being said, and being the truth, it’s also true that busines always cycles. If you are staffed up to scrape the sky and find yourself playing handball on the curb, you just can’t support the same level of staffing. You can lay some off and pay the rest, or you can continue to pay everybody until you close the business, and can’t pay anybody. In business as in life you sometimes find yourself in a situation with no desireable alternatives.
    Harley is in no way near dire straights. You can check the business out on line. Check the top line on their ballance sheet…. cash on hand. The point I’m ackwardly trying to make is that their current payroll is too large a part of their revenue. It’s not that they are paying any one person too much at $23 an hour it’s that they are paying too many people. They’re just not selling enough motorcycles to support the outlay of money. It cost too much to run an obsolete plant and the tax structure is too high in that location.

    Work with the union. Don’t for a minute think the IAMAW will roll over tits up and play dead. They fight as hard as anybody when their backs are to the wall.
    Get some tax relief from Pensylvania and the local community.
    Get the state to help with modernizing the existing plant.

    If it works right and everybody finds some common ground from which to work, the effect of this downward sales trend can be minimized. For my money, that’s what will happen. They’ll stay in York


  12. sled tramp Says:

    Been a union man all my days.Piledriver/Bridgebuilder.
    I understand what you’re saying.Part of my rant is due to my being absolutely fed up with Harley Davidson’s attitude in general.I make no secret how I feel about their screwing customers,workers,hell…anybody.
    The “Sky and curb” comment was not so much business as much as it reflects their image to a lot of old school bikers.Perhaps you too may feel some irritation towards them.
    I’m not going to explain this well-as usual-but I feel like our little world has enough assholes taking potshots at us that we don’t need our own screwing with us.Harley is still a company (in my honest opinion) because of decades of support from us,the not so Madison Avenue friendly biker community.Therefore,by association with us, it becomes the recognized image of our culture.When Mr. and Mrs. Volvo see a Honda and a rider in a Texron orange suit, they don’t think outlaw biker. And, as it’s been mentioned,”Outlaw” groups and a certain leader have fostered interest and thus sales for many,many years. So, since we ride American sleds,I’m just fucking pissed off that good old Harley has no problem whatsoever pissing in my beer.
    sled tramp

  13. sled tramp Says:

    BTW,aside from a lot of sled time today,it’s been a very shitty evolution.So,one moment I’m ranting against big biz and doing my union steward thing, and the next I’m just flat out pissed at Harley.Sometimes my temper tends to flare….well, off to kick a sleeping puppy….

  14. DOC Says:

    Dear Sled Tramp

    Yea, I get that about Harley Corporate. It used to be a blue collar brand. Most guys our age remember supporting them for years when they were strugling only to be looked down upon when the doctors, lawyers, and stock brokers bumped sales. Sorta like being the ugly sister everybody wants to fuck when nobody’s looking.

    I’d like to see two things happen here when everything is said and done.
    1) A strong motor company. (it’s better for all of us in the long run)
    2) The workers in York (as many as possible) keep their jobs up there.

    You’re right, I’m probably dreaming.


  15. Grumbler On Wheels Says:

    sled tramp – speaking of cutting out tats, brings to mind a fellow Triumph rider from the ’70s during my Santa Cruz days. He decided to have the tat on top of his left arm removed. Can’t recall the design nor why. The next time we saw him, a marbled transplant from his ass had replaced the tat. We couldn’t resist teasing him about always having a piece of ass on his arm. His last name was Dumas so we started calling him dumbass from there on. :)

  16. JAMES Says:

    A union is only as strong as their members, I have a hard time believing HARLEY is in such bad shape that they want people to believe they are moving the plant, although these things have happened as AMERICAN AIRLINES where I have many friends who work there, a few years back they were going to layoff or close TULSA MAINTENANCE which is the central hub, so instead they ask everyone to take less holidays, pay cuts etc. but at the same time when the contract was signed and sealed workers found management got to keep all benefits and huge salaries pus bonuses for helping to get the workforce to take I belive an 18% wage cut over a 4-5 year period costing them alot less take home,I am not saying they will not move but I would really do some checking into what management will have to give up if it comes to a showdown.As far as moving to KY. to save money, I would wait about 5 years before I would buy a new HARLEY because surely the new workers are not going to be naturals at motorcycle building, sounds like a waste of time and money for them to move.All I can see is lower wages and a sad case of a motorcycle.

  17. capnbill Says:

    As the new hire business goes, the place where I’m employed started that shit last year. I believe they get about half of what we make per hour, & the powers that be are slowly chopping benefits.
    Damn shame, ain’t it…

  18. c8652 Says:

    I hate this shit. I’m looking at my dog and wondering why she stays with me. All I ever do is feed her the dried crap that comes in a 40lbs sack, walk her, talk to her and pet her. She still gives me a parade everytime I walk through the front door.

    The things that are said here in this forum are true, almost true and quite possibly will become true. What a shit sandwich. What a dirty, crapy, nasty diaper. What a damned shame. Why do we let this happen? Because we drink the coolaide every single time.

    Doc, you’re right to put it in the box. I appreciate your wisdom and insight. Business does cycle and the reveune to operating costs are the bottom line. It’s going to ruin some worlds when that York plant gets axed. Many a craftsman are going to have to hit the bricks. You earned the tee shirt when you got dumped by the airospace/ aviation industry. I’m betting it made you alot smarter when you picked up your tools again. Nothing like getting your pink slip to brighten up your week.

    To steal a concept from Brute Krulak, I don’t need HD. The world doesn’t need HD. HD will only exist as long as the consumer (we) demand HD to provide us with what it is we want them to provide for us, be it brand identification, world class engineering, reliability, quality, frosted flakes, clean socks and underwear, whatever.
    This business cycle has happend before .. HD, AMF, HD …Wal Mart.

    I’m in no position to save HD therefore I am in no position to tell them what to do with their business. I would however like to take this moment and tell them to go fuck themselves. Because it makes me feel better. Because York PA is the wrong place to be looking for a job if you suddenly find yourself without one. Because I am a jaded, negleted lover who is watching one of the few remaining things that I care about change without me.

    Because despite myself, I am like the dog that waits with hope.

  19. Magnet Says:

    Progress, but it ain’t a done deal yet.

    Still could go either way.

  20. John Cokos Says:

    It’s a little darker than you might think. Came across a thread from India that said that HD was moving into the Indian Market. Not sure if they are building a plant there or it’s just an outlet for the bike market. Inda could be an option down the road for manufacturing after the market there has been established.Would a Harley come with Curried Rice on the side? It could over for HD in this market. After all they are Captalist’s and expanding markets are what’s all about. I don’t buy into that Marxist crap, but is what it is.

  21. JAMES Says:

    TO CAPNBILL, I was so surprised to see OKLA. people pass”THE RIGHT TO WORK LAW” all it amounts to is UNION BUSTING, not having to join the union already in place at a factory and hiring new employees at less than the union members get, and when it comes to layoffs or job security, the benefits, etc. I worked at companies that were union shops and they were far better than the non union shops I had worked.Just amazed me anyone would vote for non union labor, maybe H-D is looking for a place that is a RIGHT TO WORK STATE, can’t blame them for that but to train people to do the work the employees in YORK have been doing for however long, I see a couple of years of FACTORY RECALL work in the future.

  22. DirtyBruin Says:

    James: I was thinking about that myself – but it turns out that Kentucky is not a “right to work” state. That’s not to claim the state is union friendly – but at least they don’t have that particular problem. (Though there is apparently a move to bring a RTW law in there… *sigh*)

    According to the York Daily Record, there’s also a move to bring RTW to Pennsylvania. What a damn mess. I’ve never been in a union job – but I know my history, and I know it’s the labor unions – even with whatever faults they might have – that helped build the American middle class. Unions are why we have 40-hour work weeks and a weekend, instead of a 10 hour a day, 6 day work week – or worse.

  23. JAMES Says:

    DITRYBRUIN, I know most unoin employees as an average make more money than non-union as I am sure you already know this, and have some control over how they are treated and the conditions they work under, thus making the cost of items a bit higher. But the places I have worked have had programs that you might hire in as unskilled labor then progress through a series of on the job training moving step by step to a trained skilled position having your payscacle raised as you progress. I have also seen fly by night unions that were only after your money being the dues you pay, but a union as I said before is only as strong as its members.I have no knowledge as to what STATES are RTW or not but if you live in one that is not, I sure as hell would not vote for RTW, my opinion and as we know , opinions vary.H-D is maybe hoping for a non union STATE with all kinds of tax breaks and incentives to move there, hard to say.

  24. Grumbler Says:

    was an UAW on the truck assembly line at GMAD in Fremont, CA.Was earning $8.64 hour plus OT until they axed the 2nd shift in August/79. Was on the day shift, but they went by seniority (last hired, first fired). Was able to get TRA (Trade Reajustment Allowance) which helped as well as UI. Fortunately, was able to get a job at a high tech company a few months later. Had to repay the TRA difference to GM after I started working again. After almost 20 years at high tech company, got VSI (Voluntary Severence Incentive). Got a better deal from the latter than the former.

  25. JAMES Says:

    GRUMBLER, that’s a good deal, and yes there are a few unfortunate things but seniority is one of the benefits, to a union although in your case you will disagree since you had less seniority but at least they could not just layoff some guy just because they did not like him and keep someone with less, and as always there are better jobs out there but it depends on whether you want to or not work in a union shop.

  26. DirtyBruin Says:

    James: the thing is, it’s good for the economy in general for workers to be paid well; it’s become almost cliche, but Henry Ford’s assertion that he paid his workers better than was common at that time so they could afford to buy one of the cars they built has a lot of truth in it. What the average person can afford to buy is really the engine of the economy – and if people are just scraping by (food, shelter, clothing) that’s not promoting a lot of economic growth. That’s where better union wages benefit everyone.

  27. JAMES Says:

    DIRTYBRUIN, I have to agree, have a great day, JAMES

  28. fayettenam hoe Says:

    harley davidsons live on the road, not some factory that neglects its core, hahahah, its US freaks that bind it together, nuts and bolts are all we need

  29. fayettenam hoe Says:

    they told me along time ago, if you can’t beat that that bike into submission, break the chain

  30. fayettenam hoe Says:

    belt drive assholes are all in one

  31. fayettenam hoe Says:

    my bike is a reflection, of the asshole that rides it

  32. fayettenam hoe Says:

    antiquated, and D.O.A.

  33. fayettenam hoe Says:

    maybe Zappa said it better, “their corporate smiles are well rehearst” the dust must make their pocket book bleed, ;another worn out tire, another broken frame , cracked in hav’s, or hav not’s

  34. fayettenam hoe Says:

    look at those chrome plated dicks, huffing down the road,. they need a viagra break, some call it male suffocation

  35. Rebel Says:

    Dear fayettenam hoe,

    “Chrome plated dicks, huffing down the road.”

    That was pretty good. When you aren’t looking I’m gonna steal that.


  36. JAMES Says:

    I read where the CO. is staying in PENN. congratulations to the workforce, but also sorry to hear of the loss of some of the jobs, may you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a better NEW YEAR.

  37. Charlie O Says:

    Harley is staying in York. I never believed they were leaving (I live three miles from the factory). It was a scam by the HD to force concessions from the union. It worked.

  38. fayettenam hoe Says:

    dig it, rust plated chromeium,

  39. fayettenam hoe Says:

    steal it sweethart, you not the first, slowly please

  40. Rusty Says:

    What’s next Mexico? and $5.00 an hour. They always brag about how faithful
    their customers are, what about being faithful to your employees! I know, I don’t like what I hear. If you can shit on your employees, then you can shit on your customers in an heart beat! It’s sad that a company that has built a name based upon trust and quality and brotherhood, can just walk away from the ones who helped you build it. Hear that boom! that’s your stock falling Harley!!!!


  1. larry hayes - March 20, 2010

    […] epicenter of battery development, said Larry Hayes, the state's economic development secretary. …Bye Bye York | The Aging RebelAbout two weeks ago Harley executives met with Kentucky Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes […]

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