Workers on Sunday cited multiple problems with the company's offer, ranging from what they described as an inadequate pay increase to higher health care costs and continuation of a two-tier wage scale.Workers in the lower tier, which are new workers, are making less than 60% of the money as the more senior workers for doing the same job. This was done intentionally by the company to cause worker unrest and to undermine the power of the union.
In 2010, with the economy still reeling from the worst recession since the 1930s, the Local 833 membership accepted a company proposal that froze wages for five years, increased health insurance costs and established a system that pays newer employees much less than their longer-tenured co-workers.
This time, with area unemployment low and a resurgent housing market benefiting Kohler, the workers wanted more.
"The company has been taking it to us for many years now, and we've had enough," said Eric Koene, 43, of Sheboygan, a Kohler employee for 22 years.
Particularly objectionable, he said, is the two-tier wage scale. If that were scrapped, as Local 833 proposed to do over six years, "this (contract) would pass easily, maybe even 100%," Koene said.
And it's not like the company can't afford to treat their workers decently. Forbes has the Kohler family, which has been running the company for four generations, valued at $7.3 billion - yes, that's billion with a "B".
I stand in solidarity with the striking workers. The company's exploitation of them was never needed and should be stopped.
With the Milwaukee County bus drivers winning their contract to stop the flood of temporary workers and now the Kohler workers standing up for themselves, it bodes well for the future of the state and the country. If this trend continues, we can finally put a stop to and start reversing the damage done by the likes of Scott Walker and the other corporate sockpuppets who are supported by these greedy CEOs.