Union Negotiation Sinks Mercury Marine in WI

Slow boat sales are putting marine related jobs in jeopardy; but it may be Union Bosses that cause the closure of a Wisconsin Mercury Marine factory.  Because monopoly bargaining privileges grant union officers exclusive authority to speak for all workers, Mercury Marine employees’ futures are in the hands of Machinist union officer Mark Zillges.  Associated Press reports: 

FOND DU LAC, Wis. – Union workers at Mercury Marine put their jobs at risk Sunday when they rejected a package of wage and benefit concessions the boat engine maker said it needed or it would move their work to a nonunion plant in Oklahoma.

There’s been a steady erosion of employment at the Fond du Lac factory due to slow boat sales and the poor economy. Two years ago, nearly half of Mercury Marine’s 6,400 workers worldwide were employed in Fond du Lac. In February, 85 jobs were cut and the plant shut down for two weeks. In 2008, hundreds of jobs were cut and production shut down for three weeks.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 1947, represents 850 workers at Mercury Marine, the largest employer in the eastern Wisconsin city of Fond du Lac and the world’s largest manufacturer of boat and recreational marine engines.

Mercury Marine had asked for changes to a four-year contract it signed a year ago. The company had said workers would see no pay cuts under its proposal, but the union said workers were asked give up 2 percent pay raises in each of the last two years of the contract. The average hourly wage now is about $20, the union said.

Local 1947 President Mark Zillges said Friday there would be no further negotiations. He did not immediately return a phone call Sunday seeking comment.

The company founded in 1939 as Kiekhaefer Corp. of Cedarburg also has manufacturing operations in Tulsa, Okla., as well as South Carolina, Florida, Mexico, Japan, United Kingdom, Belgium and China.

If Mercury Marine, a subsidiary of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Corp., shuts down the Fond du Lac plant, it would mean an annual loss of $353 million in workers earnings and another 5,900 in lost jobs due to the impact on suppliers, government and business in the area, according to the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp.