Harley-Davidson recently announced it is closing its Kansas City plant after 21 years, and a labor union representing the workers says that at least some of those jobs are going overseas.
Roughly 800 Missouri jobs will be lost in the closure, and the company says half of the positions will be reopened at their York, Pennsylvania plant to create jobs there.
Kansas City has embraced the Harley brand and culture. Following announcement of the closure, Harley-Davidson stock fell 8 percent.
The company said of the closing, “This was a decision we did not take lightly. The Kansas City plant has been assembling Harley-Davidson motorcycles since 1997, and our employees will leave a great legacy of quality, pride and manufacturing leadership. We are grateful to them and the Kansas City community for their many years of support and their service to our dealers and our riders.”
But in spite of denial from the motorcycle giant, members of the Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said they’ve seen evidence that they’re losing their jobs to foreign markets.
Machinist Richard Pence, who has the highest seniority in the Kansas City plant and has worked there since its inception, said, “Part of my job is being moved to York, but the other part is going to Bangkok.”
Pence also said that engineers from the KC facility are helping set up operations at the plant in Thailand, adding, “They are going over everything now, getting ready to crate it up.”
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers president Bob Martinez Jr. said of the move, “These companies are taking tax breaks with one hand and handing out pink slips with the other. I’m going to call it like I see it…this is a corporate ambush on working people.”
While Pence said that “They should be investing in America,” Harley-Davidson’s sales have slumped in the U.S. recently, attributed to the aging of their brand demographic and fewer new riders buying.
In a statement, the company said, “The plant under construction in Thailand is a separate and unrelated issue. Part of our long-term strategy is to grow our international business to 50 percent of our annual volume by 2027. The Thailand facility will allow us to be competitive and provide riders greater access to our brand and our products in an expanding global marketplace.”
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Harley’s CEO explained how he made the decision to build the Thailand plant after President Trump decided to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Chief Executive Officer Matt Levatich said, “We would rather not make the investment in that facility, but that’s what’s necessary to access a very important market. It is a direct example of how trade policies could help this company, but we have to get on with our work to grow business by any means possible, and that’s what we’re doing.” BN – EP