December 10, 2015
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Negotiations resumed Dec. 3 at the Kohler plumbing-fixture company in Wisconsin, where 2,000 workers have been on strike since Nov. 15.
Members of United Auto Workers Local 833, who in 2010 accepted a five-year wage freeze, higher health-care costs, and a two-tier wage system, balked at the company’s insistence on preserving two-tier wages and raising health costs again: 94% voted to strike. “It’s about wages going backwards,” said Local 833 President Tim Tayloe.
“If you look all over the U.S., people think you can live on $10 an hour, and that’s absolutely wrong.” The local has also circulated a list of 13 members who crossed picket lines, with the heading, “No longer our union brothers or sisters.” The plant was the scene of a legendarily bitter strike in 1954, when Kohler attempted to bust Local 833 barely a year after it had won its first contract. The dispute, the longest major strike in U.S. history, lasted until a court settlement in 1965. Read more