Unions Slam Harley-Davidson For Overseas Production Plans

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Labor unions are calling on Harley-Davidson to “abandon” plans to build a production facility in Thailand, despite the company’s insistence that it won’t affect American jobs.

“Harley-Davidson has been the crown jewel of American manufacturing,” The United Steelworkers (USW) said in a press release Tuesday. “Management’s decision to offshore production is a slap in the face to the American worker and to hundreds of thousands of Harley riders across the country.”

The company confirmed Thursday that it is building a plant in Thailand’s Rayong province, southeast of Bangkok, according to CNBC. It argued that the Thailand-based operation would allow the company to be “more responsive and competitive” in the region. Building a plant in Thailand would let the American-based company avoid Thailand’s high tariffs on imported motorcycles, which sometimes tops 60 percent, according to CNBC.

“Increased access and affordability for our customers in the region is key to growth for the company in total,” Katie Whitmore, a Harley-Davidson public relations manager told CNBC Thursday. “There is no intent to reduce H-D U.S. manufacturing due to this expansion.”

The iconic American motorcycle brand said that the move is not about taking American jobs. “This is about growing our business in Asia,” Marc McAllister, a managing director of international sales for Harley-Davidson in Singapore, told the New York Times.

American labor union bosses aren’t buying it.

“Harley-Davidson is going overseas and taking American jobs with it,” Bob Martinez, president of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) said in a statement. “While other companies think about moving work home, Harley-Davidson is doing the opposite.”

President Donald Trump hosted Harley-Davidson executives at the White House Feb. 2, one of Trump’s earliest meetings with American manufacturers. The USW represents Harley-Davidson employees in two states, as well as 850,000 workers across North America. IAM also represents Harley Davidson workers across the country.

Harley-Davidson sales in the United States are slowing down as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

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