WSAW - Blogs - Mikel Lauber

Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac - Unions in Today's Economy

It’s a sign of the times - stories about local people losing their jobs because of businesses closing or cutting positions seem to be commonplace.

 

Growing up in Fond du Lac, I've always been very familiar with the name 'Mercury Marine'.  It seems everyone I knew had a family member or close friend who worked at 'Merc.'  It was one of the cornerstones of Fond du Lac.  But right now, Fond du Lac is on edge - waiting for the final word on whether the county’s largest employer will keep 850 manufacturing jobs in Fond du Lac, or move them to Oklahoma.  Another 1000 office jobs could eventually be threatened, if Mercury Marine was to move their World Headquarters out of Fond du Lac.

 

Just days ago it seemed all but certain the jobs would move.  The unions at Mercury Marine had overwhelmingly voted to decline a “best and final” offer from Mercury Marine that would freeze salaries for 7 years, and cut pay for new and returning workers.

 

But after hundreds of union members, unhappy with the union’s decision, signed a petition, Mercury Marine has agreed to let the union revote.  This vote is expected to be fairly close, and is scheduled to end Friday (09/04) evening.

 

It’s hard to overstate how important 850 jobs are to a community the size of Fond du Lac.  The loss of those jobs would no doubt trickle down and impact the local housing market, tax revenue, other businesses, schools, etc.  My parents are both teachers in Fond du Lac, and their schools expect they would see an almost immediate drop in enrollment.

 

To many, the first decision by the union to refuse to make concessions was surprising.  The ‘no’ vote meant they’d almost certainly lose their jobs, and there are obviously many members of the union who would rather keep their jobs, even if it means a 7-year pay freeze.  Mercury Marine says they’re simply doing what the need to do to remain profitable. 

 

But on the other hand, a 7-year pay freeze would be a huge change for the workers, and judging by the first vote, it’s a change the majority of workers aren’t willing to make.  And what power does a union really have if they agree to such a drastic and immediate change?

 

I’ve never worked at a ‘union job’ before, and I know I don’t have a full understanding of their benefits and pitfalls.  What do you think?  In this struggling economy, are unions a good layer protection for workers?  Do they help with job and income security?  Or can they hurt individual workers by attempting to hold onto pay and benefits that simply aren’t feasible in today’s economy?

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