Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ignores rally of thousands against corporate greed

Did you know that union workers in Wisconsin held their largest rally in years this week?

Don't blame yourself if you didn't because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't cover it.
Apparently the editors of the largest daily in the state didn't think the mobilization of thousands of workers and their supporters against the Kohler Company's demands for draconian concessions was worth covering even though a day earlier it dedicated an entire article to explaining the company's position.

Fortunately other media did cover the protest.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

Several thousand Kohler Co. union employees and their supporters spent more than two hours picketing outside company headquarters Wednesday, following a day of labor negotiations that union officials said had taken on a slightly more positive tone.

The United Auto Workers Local 833 organized the "informational" picket — the union isn't on strike — to draw attention to what union members feel are unjust concessions asked for by Kohler as the two sides attempt to work out a new labor contract.

"Under their proposal, they could lay me off and bring me back and pay me the same wages I made in 1997, but it's not 1997," said Tim Tolman, 47, a 15-year employee who became a temporary Kohler worker last year following a companywide layoff. "I think it's totally unfair."

The state AFL-CIO blog ran a lengthy article:

Enough is enough. Kohler Company is taking advantage of the poor economy to demand extreme and unnecessary concessions from their workforce, including a wage freeze, a two tier wage system and the use of more temporary employees.

Nearly 2,000 people turned out yesterday to stand in solidarity with workers from UAW Local 833, as they fight to put the needs of working families ahead of corporate greed. Workers and community members picketed side by side in order to send a united message to Kohler management.

“During times of economic prosperity, the leadership of UAW Local 833 has always taken a reasonable and responsible approach to negotiations. Unfortunately, Kohler Company chose to exploit the current recession as evidenced by its present proposals,” says UAW Local 833 President Dave Bergene.

Kohler harps about high labor costs. They conveniently forget to mention that the quality and productivity of Kohler workers is second to none in their global empire. Build it elsewhere, rework it here,” adds Dave Boucher, a full-time Kohler Foundry worker and an Executive Board member of UAW Local 833.

The contract fight at Kohler is part of a larger trend affecting all workers, union and non-union. As companies sitting on huge cash reserves consistently put profits above people, the Wisconsin labor movement is mobilizing to fight on behalf of the middle-class and all working families.

“This pattern of ‘restructuring’ is becoming all too frequent, with successful companies demanding huge concessions from workers; not because they have to, but because they can,” according to Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “This is happening at non-union facilities too, but you simply don’t hear about it, because those workers don’t have a democratic structure though which to fight back.”

Neuenfeldt and newly elected Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale attended yesterday’s rally in Kohler in order focus statewide attention on the growing cancer of corporate greed which threatens to consume Wisconsin’s middle-class.

According to Bloomingdale, “It’s time to take a stand. This madness has to stop somewhere. If companies like Kohler want people to be able to buy their products, they must provide reasonable compensation in order to make it possible.”

“All too often the retirees that toiled to create a strong company are forgotten and thrown under the bus, all in the name of greater ‘competiveness.’ We’re not willing to let that happen here,” vows Pete Behrensprung, UAW International Representative and former Local 833 President.

“Maybe the company should focus less on improving their golf tournaments and more on improving their operations; then they wouldn’t have to extract huge concessions from the workers,” remarked Bruce Krueger, rank and file member of UAW Local 833.

In order to successfully fight the battles that lie ahead, working people will have to unite across sectors to support each others’ struggles. Thor Backus, AFSCME Council 40 Organizer, sees the larger picture and is speaking out in support of his UAW brothers and sisters. “If Kohler gets its way, workers and retirees in the area won’t be able to afford a pot to piss in, much less the company’s toilets.”

Unlike the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel media outlets around the state covered yesterday’s informational picket.


xoff said...

You're just saying that because you're left-leaning, according to the newspaper.

More here.

Michael Rosen said...


To set the record straight the MJS got it wrong. My left leg is NOT shorter than my right. Both feet are firmly planted.

Thanks for sharing the Kohler Company's ugly history.

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