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EARLIER: Harley workers overwhelmingly approve contract

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Harley vote to be cast today

By Lisa King

Shelby County may be down to that last strike in its bid to get Harley-Davidson to move its largest production plant here.

Union workers in York, Pa., voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor of the contract the company had offered about two weeks ago.

All but 193 of the 1,780 who voted -- 89 percent -- were in favor of the new 7-year deal, which would eliminate about half their jobs and give the company much broader control of the way the plant operates.

Charles Townsley, a 31-year chrome and metal polisher, is one worker who voted "yes" on the contract.

"The contract is not as good as it could be, but it's good enough to stay here in York," he told the York Daily Record. "I think the contract will be approved. If not, it will be crazy. Harley will go to Kentucky." 

Mike Deshong, 54, of Dallastown, said he has worked for Harley 11 years. He said he plans to vote in favor of the contract.

"What are we going to do, vote no and give the jobs to Kentucky?" Deshong told the Daily Record.

The contract had stated that if the union were to accept it that the company would end its discussions with Shelby County.

Company officials have said the final decision would be made at a board meeting later this month.

"I have no comment until the final decision comes from their board," said Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation.

"I'm still holding onto hope; the final decision isn't until December 10," state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) said.

Other  local officials, meanwhile, had continued to pursue the plant with all dilligence.

At Tuesday night's meeting of Shelby County Fiscal Court, magistrates passed the first reading of the zoning change for the 214 acres designated for the plant, and they also OKd a resolution that allowed the county to move ahead with contracts for infrastructure issues.

"We are just going to keep pushing forward until we hear a more definite word out of York, Pa.," County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said.

Shelby County has been wooing Harley for months, ever since the company started looking at alternative sites for its plant in York County, Pa., it’s largest production facility. Shelby emerged as the final option early last month.

With plummeting profits, Harley officials have been looking for new efficiencies – including a new contract with its labor union in Pennsylvania – to making lasting cuts in expenses.

A contract between the company and The International Union of Machinists and Aerospace Workers was agreed upon by negotiators about two weeks ago. Today's vote was a ratification of that agreement.

Company officials have said that no matter the vote, the board of directors still has final say-so on whether there would be a move to Shelby County. The board meets on Dec. 10.

Kentucky has made wooing Harley its top economic development option and is prepared to offer a package of incentives to the company. A special session of the General Assembly could be called this month to close the deal.

And in Shelby County that’s why officials, notably the Fiscal Court and Triple S Planning and Zoning, have taken aggressive steps to get the get property earmarked for Harley-Davidson in hopes that the employees there would reject the proposal – a contract that may not be that attractive to all those voting.

If accepted, the proposed union contract would put into motion a restructuring that would reduce drastically Harley's workforce in York, leaving only 700 to 800 full-time production workers there, down from about 2,000 it has now.

Harley already cut several hundred workers from about 3,000 it once employed in York County.

Comments from union employees published by The Daily Record in York have included disdain for the contract’s terms, which include more company control of schedules, reductions and job assignments along with the reduced number of employees.

Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation, said that despite the contract negotiations in York, county officials are still hopeful.

"We are just continuing to do what we need to do until we are told definitely they are not coming," she said.

The contract states that if it is accepted, the company will halt all attempts to relocate the plant to Kentucky.

Harley-Davidson expects to make a final stay-or-go decision about its York operations by the end of the year.