Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that massive tax cuts will boost U.S. employment numbers, motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson instead announced a plant closing, followed by a massive stock buy-back and is now shifting some jobs to Thailand.
In a deep dive into happenings at the Milwaukee-based manufacturer of highly-coveted motorcycles, Vox discovered employees and union leaders who believe that they were betrayed by the company which prides itself on its reputation for American-built products.
According to the report, in 2017 House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hyped up proposed Republican tax cuts, telling workers in his home state, “Tax reform can put American manufacturers and American companies like Harley-Davidson on a much better footing to compete in the global economy and keep jobs here in America.”
However, after the GOP delivered on their proposal, executives announced the closing of a plant in Kansas City, Missouri — with 800 workers losing their jobs as some operations were moved to a York, Pennsylvania facility- leading to a net loss of 350 positions. According to union leaders, they never saw it coming.
“We really never had any belief that they were going to shut the Kansas City facility down,” said Greg Tate, a staff representative for the United Steelworkers, adding that the announcement was “the first anyone found out about it.”
On the heels of the announcement of the closure, the company announced a $700 million stock buy-back of 15 million shares after seeing their tax rate drop approximately 10 percent under the Republican-passed tax deal.
Adding insult to injury, the company announced plans to open a production facility in Thailand later in 2018, explaining it has nothing to do with jobs, but to get around tariffs President Trump has called for on steel from overseas and avoid a possible $30 million increase in costs.
Workers in Kansas City aren’t buying it.
“Part of my job is being moved to York, but the other part is going to Bangkok,” claimed Richard Pence, a Harley machinist working at the Kansas City plant, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, adding the company is already packing up the plant and that he suspects some of the machinery is heading overseas.
“These companies are taking tax breaks with one hand and handing out pink slips with the other,” said International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Bob Martinez Jr in a statement. “I’m going to call it like I see it … this is a corporate ambush on working people.”
“I think there’s going to be a big layoff in August and an even bigger one in October. After that, we will basically have a few hundred people left to finish out the Sportster line through the next model-year next spring. Then, that will be it for us,” Pence — an employee of Harley Davidson for over 21 years — added, before stating, “It’s sort of like the horse is out of the barn now.”
You can read the whole report here.