With 94% vote in favor of strike, union workers from Kohler walk off the job

UAW workers at Kohler on strike

SHEBOYGAN -- Union members are picketing at the gates of the Kohler Co. after authorizing the first strike at the Sheboygan area company since 1983.

Hundreds of strikers marched from the union hall to the company Monday morning where picketing began at the gates of the plumbing and hospitality company. United Auto Workers Local 833 says 94 percent of voting members rejected Kohler's latest offer. About 1,800 workers attended Sunday's membership meeting.

Workers have taken issue with what they call an inadequate pay increase, higher health care costs and the continuation of a two-tier wage scale.

Kohler had called for three raises of 50 cents each — about 2 percent a year — for most of its workforce. The offer raised health care costs but included a $1,200 bonus that the company said could cover the increase.


FOX6 News has obtained the following statement from Kohler Company:

"Kohler Co. is very disappointed that our final offer was not accepted by our associates and is concerned that Union officials may have misrepresented what could be achieved in a strike.  A work stoppage like this will unfortunately cost our associates and can negatively influence our desire to grow jobs in this location. It is a fair offer for all that continues to maintain local jobs above the region’s norm, supports continued permanent job growth at our Wisconsin operations now and for future generations, and ensures all associates are financially ahead each year of the contract term. The contract proposal offered wage and benefit increases during each year of the contract, an increase of the pension multiplier for eligible associates, increases across the board in life insurance, short-term and long-term disability and other insurance benefits, and more health care options.

The contract proposal would keep Tier A wage associates in the 86thpercentile of local market wage rates and among the highest paid in the area, while newer Tier B associates would receive an immediate pay increase averaging more than 20 percent.  A new lower cost HRA medical plan option, and the opportunity to earn wellness credits and discounts would reduce monthly contributions. If members had voted to accept our offer, Tier A associates would have received a $1,200 bonus and Tier B associates a $1,000 bonus. This could cover the increase in health care premiums in the three years of the agreement.

The company had hoped an agreement would be in place as of today and uninterrupted work would be assured.  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."


READ IT: Details of final contract offer to UAW 833 workers from Kohler Company

It's unclear how long this strike could last, but union workers say they're in it for as long as it takes.