UPDATE: Kohler employees return to work following strike

UPDATED: Thursday, December 17, 2015 -- 7:33 a.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- Union workers at the Kohler Co. are returning to work.

A steady stream of vehicles pulled into the Kohler plant early Thursday where union members reported for first shift work after a monthlong strike.

United Auto Workers Local 833 members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a four-year deal Wednesday. Union officials say the new agreement provides a wage increase in each year of the contract and improves health care costs compared to the company's previous offer.

The strike by about 2,000 Kohler employees began Nov. 15 and was the first walkout at the company in more than 30 years. The privately-held Kohler makes plumbing products, cabinets, furniture, engines and owns hotels and golf courses.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 -- 9:33 p.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- Union workers have overwhelmingly approved a new contract ending a monthlong strike against the Kohler Co. in Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1NqyqUY ) reports union officials say the tentative agreement was supported by 91 percent of the 1,846 employees who voted Wednesday. Workers will return to their jobs Thursday morning.

The strike began Nov. 15 at the privately held maker of plumbing products, cabinets, furniture and other items.

Under the agreement, employees would get wage increases in each year of the four-year contract, according to union leaders who represent about 2,000 workers at Kohler's kitchen and bath plant in the village of the same name and at a generator factory north of Sheboygan.

The workers are members of United Auto Workers Local 833.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015

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UPDATED: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 --- 6:41 a.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- The Kohler Co. and its striking union have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 833 are expected to vote on the pact Wednesday. Union leaders say the agreement includes wage increases and benefits in each year of the contract. Union president Tim Tayloe says the agreement also narrows the gap on a two-tier pay system. He says the health care plans have been modified to reduce the potential for out-of-pocket costs.

Company CEO David Kohler says the agreement recognizes the contributions of the workers in making Kohler more competitive in the future.

Local 833 represents about 2,000 workers at Kohler's kitchen and bath plant in Kohler and at a generator factory north of Sheboygan. The union went on strike Nov. 15.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED: Sunday, December 6, 2015 --- 9:22 a.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- Talks have been resumed between the Kohler Co. and the union that's been on strike for nearly three weeks in Wisconsin.

Tim Tayloe, president of Local 833 of the United Auto Workers, said in a text message Friday that the union and the company met this week, and will meet again next week.

A Kohler representative confirmed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1XQZTC0 ) that negotiations have resumed.

Local 833 represents about 2,000 workers at Kohler's kitchen and bath-ware plant in the Village of Kohler and at a generator factory north of Sheboygan. The union went on strike Nov. 15.

The union wants to do away with a two-tiered pay scale that it says unfairly limits new employees to roughly $13 an hour. Kohler has said its contract offer was fair.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 -- 6:45 a.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- The union on strike against the Kohler Co. is circulating a list of members who have crossed the picket line and returned to work.

United Auto Workers Local 833 President Tim Tayloe says the list was distributed at the request of members and that he has encouraged strikers not to retaliate against those who have gone back to work.

Sheboygan Press Media (http://shebpr.es/1XGEyuS ) reports the list also states the 13 on the list are no longer union brothers or sisters and that "a scab is a scab." Union members who have crossed the picket line in the two-week-old strike say they can't afford to stay off the job. Luis Rodriguez says he can't support his four children and pregnant wife on $200 a week in strike pay.

No new bargaining talks have been scheduled.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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UPDATED Friday, November 27, 2015---1:48 p.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- A union official says Kohler Co. workers plan to strike through the holiday weekend and they remain united in their desire to do away with a two-tiered pay scale that they say unfairly limits newly hired employees to about $13 an hour.

Union spokesman Pete Behrensprung said Friday that Kohler workers have been picketing "around the clock since Nov. 15," including the rain on Thanksgiving and that they would continue to do so until their demands are met.

He says the workers haven't heard anything new from the company and that no new negotiations have been scheduled.

Kohler's president and CEO, meanwhile, wrote a letter to the Sheboygan Press on Wednesday, saying the workers' demands would lead to job cuts.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, November 18, 2015---8:24 a.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- A court injunction keeps union members on strike against the Kohler Co. from interfering with traffic around the plant.

The company filed a complaint in Sheboygan County Circuit Court alleging the hundreds of union picketers that have gathered outside Kohler gates are causing traffic jams and harassing people trying to enter the property.

The Journal Sentinel says an injunction was issued Tuesday by Judge James Bolgert.

United Auto Workers Local 833 president Tim Tayloe says he's heard that some language by strikers was getting out of hand, so he's reminded members their fight isn't with the people who are driving to work at Kohler.

No new contract talks are scheduled.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, November 16, 2015---9:02 a.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- Union members are picketing at the gates of the Kohler Co. after authorizing the first strike at the Sheboygan area company since 1983.

Hundreds of strikers marched from the union hall to the company Monday morning where picketing began at the gates of the plumbing and hospitality company. United Auto Workers Local 833 says 94 percent of voting members rejected Kohler's latest offer. About 1,800 workers attended Sunday's membership meeting.

Workers have taken issue with what they call an inadequate pay increase, higher health care costs and the continuation of a two-tier wage scale.

Kohler had called for three raises of 50 cents each -- about 2 percent a year -- for most of its workforce. The offer raised health care costs but included a $1,200 bonus that the company said could cover the increase.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Monday, November 16, 2015 -- 6:46 a.m.

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) -- Union workers at Kohler Co. have rejected the company's latest contract offer and overwhelmingly approved a strike.

United Auto Workers Local 833 announced the vote results Sunday. The union says paper balloting showed 94 percent of workers favor a strike. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/1SRZVZm) it would be the company's first strike since 1983.

Workers have taken issue with what they call an inadequate pay increase, higher health care costs and the continuation of a two-tier wage scale that pays newer employees less.

The company has said its last contract offer would've raised the average wage for lower tier workers to above $17 an hour.

A strike could idle about 2,100 production employees at a plumbing-ware foundry in the Village of Kohler and at a generator plant near Sheboygan.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015
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Posted: Saturday, November 14, 2015 -- 8:08 p.m.

KOHLER, Wis. (AP) -- With a possible strike looming, the Kohler Co. has presented what the company calls its final contract offer to Wisconsin union workers.

The current contract expires at midnight Saturday. Union members meet Sunday to hear presentations from union leaders and possibly decide to strike.

The company's proposal would raise pay for workers on both levels of the two-tier wage scale Kohler put in place five years ago over the union's objections.

Tim Tayloe, president of United Auto Workers Local 833, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday that he can't recommend the company's proposal.

The union represents 2,100 production workers at the company's plumbing products foundry in the Village of Kohler, and at a generator plant north of Sheboygan.

A strike would be the first at Kohler since 1983.

Copyright: The Associated Press 2015