Welcome to the brave, new world of post-industrial America.
Last week the union that represents workers at the Harley-Davidson plant in York, Pennsylvania, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 175, tentatively approved a new labor contract that will cut the plant’s workforce in half, reduce average wages and cut medical benefits. Pennsylvania’s Governor, a man named Ed Rendell, bribed the last, major, American motorcycle manufacturer a reported $15 million to stay put.
The York plant is Harley’s largest factory. As part of the agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harley has promised to spend $90 million in capital improvements.
At least a thousand workers can expect to be layed-off. A clause in the new contract specifies that employees with five or more years seniority will be paid severance in the amount of four days wages for every year on the job. The maximum severance check will amount to 24 weeks pay.
The new agreement will take effect on February 2, 2010 and remain in force until February 2, 2017.
Current Harley employees will earn between $24.10 an hour and $29.01 an hour for the duration of the contract. New Employees hired after February 2, 2010 will make either $19.28 or $20.84 an hour. The low end of the wage scale works out to about $40,000 per year for a typical family before taxes and deductions or, if the family is shrewd, about $30,000 a year after deductions.
Starting in February, up to 23 percent of all the hours worked at the plant can be assigned to “Casual Employees.” Pay for Casual Employees ranges from $16.75 an hour to $23.30 an hour. The 58-page contract specifically states that “Casual Employees are expressly excluded from all Harley-Davidson Retirement and Benefit Plans. They will receive an hourly wage, but they will not be entitled to any benefits of any kind….”
Harley spokesman Bob Klein said the point of the agreement is “to allow York to resize and become more flexible and more cost-competitive and efficient, all of which is key to a sustainable future.”
Two months ago, Harley boss of all bosses Keith Wandell, told financial analysts that “restructuring” the York plant was one of the steps the company was taking to save between $120 million to $150 million in production costs.
Harley-Davidson sales peaked in 2006. The next year company President James L. Ziemer made $4,447,713. The next year, after sales began to drop, Ziemer made $5,560,650. Wandell replaced Ziemer on May 1st. So far this year Wandell has earned $7,182,027 in total compensation – which is about what 200 jobs at the York plant will cost.
The brave, new post-industrial America is a consumer paradise for investors, executives, professional athletes, celebrities, real estate tycoons, politicians, professionals, bureaucrats, prison guards and a thousand kinds of cops.
The new and improved America is a little less like paradise for all the servants, nannies, gardeners, security guards, nurses and waiters who hold down most of the new and improved American jobs.
The agricultural and industrial jobs that defined the old America for more than 200 years are now mostly gone. Agriculture and manufacturing are now routinely outsourced. Even customer service and some professional jobs like computer programming are increasingly outsourced. The union negotiators in York were obviously happy to save any jobs they could.