Photographer: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg

Harley-Davidson Has a Falling-Out With Unions

Updated on
  • Machinists, Steelworkers end decades of formal cooperation
  • Company says it remains committed to American factories

Harley-Davidson Inc., held up by President Donald Trump as a beacon of American manufacturing, has had a falling-out with U.S. unions accusing the company of trying to “systematically dismantle” its hourly workforce.

The motorcycle maker has been using temporary instead of full-time employees, outsourcing work to third parties and eliminating American jobs while constructing plants in India, Thailand and Brazil, according to Robert Martinez Jr., the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Martinez listed these complaints in a letter to members Monday and joined the United Steelworkers on Tuesday in announcing their withdrawal from a two-decade long partnership with the company.

Harley Chief Executive Officer Matt Levatich agreed Monday to work with the unions to resolve staffing issues, according to the unions. The USW said in July that Harley was laying off 180 employees in Kansas City, Missouri, and Milwaukee, where the company is based.

Faced with a decline in U.S. biking, Harley is trying to build ridership overseas and is producing motorcycles outside the country to avoid tariffs, spokeswoman Pat Sweeney said by phone. The company will continue to work cooperatively with labor leaders and members despite the unions ending the official partnership agreement, she said.

“We’re not shifting U.S. jobs overseas,” Sweeney said. “We remain very committed to American manufacturing.”

Harley shares were little changed at $47.53 as of 3:37 p.m. Tuesday in New York trading. The stock has dropped about 19 percent this year.

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