Gary Workinger, who has been with Harley for 21 years, smokes outside of the Toyota Arena before voting on a contract with Harley Wednesday, December 2,
Gary Workinger, who has been with Harley for 21 years, smokes outside of the Toyota Arena before voting on a contract with Harley Wednesday, December 2, 2009. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Kate Penn)
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Harley-Davidson staying in York County.


REPORTED EARLIER

Harley-Davidson workers approved a 7-year contract this morning with 89 percent of the union voting in favor of the contract.

The final tally taken at the York Expo Center numbered 1,587 for the contract to 193 against it.

The new contract is seen as another step toward keeping York's vehicle assembly operations in York County. Harley is considering moving them to Kentucky to save costs.

Before the vote Wednesday

Early voters were saying they voted "yes" on the contract.

Before the vote this morning, a steady flow of Harley-Davidson employees filed into the Toyota Arena. Some lingered outside.

Charles Townsley, a 31-year chrome and metal polisher, said he planned to vote "yes" on the contract.

"The contract is not as good as it could be, but it's good enough to stay here in York," he said. "I think the contract will be approved. If not, it will be crazy. Harley will go to Kentucky."

Mike Deshong, 54, of Dallastown, said he has worked for Harley 11 years. He said he plans to vote in favor of the contract.

"What are we going to do, vote no and give the jobs to Kentucky?" Deshong said.

This is also not a new situation for Deshong.

"I went through this with the (Caterpillar) plant closing, so I've been through this before. Because of how the economy is doing now, there aren't as many jobs around - at least not jobs like these," he said.

But he also said he's not worried.

"I don't worry until I need to worry," Deshong said.

Bill Castro, an equipment polisher at Harley's local plant, said he will vote in favor of the contract in an effort to keep Harley in York County.

"The contract is disappointing," he said. "They have all these years of record profits. Then, the economy tanks, and they make us look like the worst workers in the world."

Castro said he is concerned about losing his job.

"If I get wind of that happening, I might just retire."

Digesting the 60-page proposal

More than a week has passed since Harley-Davidson handed out a contract proposal to Brenda Karr and roughly two thousand of her fellow union members.

"It's a terrible, terrible contract," she said Tuesday.

Despite her reservations about the proposal, the nearly 10-year line worker at the motorcycle manufacturer's Springettsbury Township plant said she planned to vote in favor of it.

"The union has made it clear to us that if we don't vote 'yes', the plant is gone," Karr said. "They told us that several times."

Harley-Davidson released a statement later this morning saying the contract ratification is a "signifcant step" toward restructuring York vehicle assembly operations.

Matt Krug, who has worked at Harley-Davidson for 12 years, holds a copy of the contract to be voted on outside the Toyota Arena earlier this morning. Krug
Matt Krug, who has worked at Harley-Davidson for 12 years, holds a copy of the contract to be voted on outside the Toyota Arena earlier this morning. Krug says he plans to vote 'yes,' even though this may mean he loses his job. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN)

The statement also said the company's Board of Directors plans to make a final decision about York operations "shortly" but did not say when exactly the decision would happen.

Tom Santone, directing business representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 98, said this morning he expects to know the company's decision Dec. 9.

According to the terms of the deal with workers obtained Nov. 20, Harley has until Dec. 10 to make a decision about York.

Community reacts

Tom Donley, president of the York County Chamber of Commerce, called the vote tally "remarkable" considering the concessions workers are taking with the new contract.

Those include a lack of pay increases and the company shrinking its workforce levels significantly, with a current union workforce of about 1,950 being reduced to about 1,000 full-time and "causal" workers, who would work as needed.

He said the contract ratification shows the workers and the union have really stepped up toward keeping Harley-Davidson making motorcycles in York County.

"We want Harley to be here forever," Donley said.

Donley also said the community needs to come together with a comprehensive plan to absorb the hundreds of job losses expected as part of Harley's restructuring plan.

Michael Smith, spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell, also called the vote a significant step forward for keeping Harley in York.

He also said the union's effort throughout the process has shown "remarkable flexibility" to help the company achieve its goals. The York community and the state, Smith said, owe the union and workers a debt of gratitude.

The governor's office has been informed that the final decision should come shortly from Harley, but Smith said he did not have a more refined timetable.

He also said he did not have an update on possible incentives from the state, should Harley-Davidson decide to stay in York.

"Right now, the ball is in Harley's court," he said.

Kentucky is watching York

The Sentinel-News in Shelbyville, Ky., is reporting this morning that local officials there are preparing for Harley up until the moment they know for sure whether the company is staying in York.

Even if the contract vote goes in favor of the contract this morning, the company still retains the right to make a final decision about whether to move to Shelby County, Kentucky, later this month.

Among the moves there are a rezoning of land near a local interstate highway and a possible special session of the legislature to approve Harley incentives.


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Opinion: Wise vote by Harley workers