Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wall Street Values Rock Mercury Marine

The year before the Great Recession, Mercury Marine and its union settled on a new contract indicating that their business model, including the negotiated wage and benefit structure, worked.

Once the recession hit, the demand for Mercury's discretionary product, outboard motors, plummeted.

In past recessions when sales declined, firms laid off their hourly employees until demand picked up. The national unemployment compensation system is designed precisely for such circumstances. It provides the unemployed worker with a weekly check and saves companies money by ensuring their skilled and experienced labor force will return when the economy begins to grow again.

Mercury cynically used the Great Recession to restructure its labor costs and externalize its costs.

It whipsawed the Fond du Lac plant against an offer from right-to-work Oklahoma demanding concessions including a 40% wage cut. The local union that represents the hourly employees initially stood up to Mercury's naked money grab, but under pressure from community and political leaders eventually agreed to the significant concessions.

Mercury's threat to relocate also got the state, Fond du Lac County and the City of Fond du Lac to pony up almost $125 million, $50 million of which will be generated by an increase in the county's sale tax.

Now Mercury Marine is handing out bonuses to all its non-union folks. The Wall Street ethos has come to Main Street.

As union president Mark Zillges says: "Fifty years worth of benefits they took away from these people in one swoop. Now they give themselves bonuses. That's the biggest slap to these people there is...This is not right. It's not right for these people to get rich off the sweat of these other people who just lost it."

For more check out this video:

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