Harley-Davidson Motor Company expressed disappointment at the union vote yesterday that rejected a proposed new collective bargaining agreement for employees and authorized a strike at its final assembly operations in York, Pa. A strike at the facility is expected to occur as early as today, when the current contract expires. As a result of the pending strike, production of Touring and Softail motorcycles at Harley-Davidson’s operations in York has been suspended. “We are obviously disappointed by the union’s decision,” said Fred Gates, General Manager of Harley-Davidson’s operations in York. “The proposed contract was structured to help manage future costs that could be detrimental to our business over the long term,” Gates said. “While Harley-Davidson is a strong company today, we don’t want to find ourselves in ten years in the same position that the Detroit auto industry is in now.” The proposed contract provided for a four percent wage increase in each of the three contract years. Two percent of the increase was dependent on the union accepting the company’s salaried health care plan or another plan that would save the company an equal amount of money. The company’s union employees in York currently pay no premium for health insurance coverage and minimal out of pocket costs. The proposal would have doubled the Company’s 401(k) contribution match and would have provided a special monthly retirement supplement for certain employees who retire during the contract period. The proposal also would have instituted a second-tier wage and benefit plan for new employees hired after February 2, 2007. Harley-Davidson production employees in York are represented by International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 175. “Harley-Davidson has no business behaving like they’re on the brink of bankruptcy,” said Tom Buffenbarger, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). “When Harley was flat on its back in the 1980’s, it was union members who refused to let it die. Harley went on to become an international success story but they’ve obviously forgotten how they got this far.” “They don’t respect workers as much as their stock options,” declared District 98 Directing Business Representative Tom Boger about company leaders who reported record revenue of more than $1.6 billion for the third quarter of last year. Harley proposed pay increases that would go into effect in 2008 and 2009, but only if workers agreed to pay more for health care costs. “These workers build pride into every motorcycle Harley sells and they deserve a fair contract that reflects the success they helped create,” said Buffenbarger. “Instead, this company’s management is risking a successful 26- year partnership for a few cents more in profits. It’s incredibly stupid and shortsighted.” Founded in 1888, the IAM is among the largest industrial trade unions in North America, representing nearly 700,000 active and retired members in transportation, aerospace, woodworking, shipbuilding and manufacturing sectors.