Union wants governor involved in negotiations with Mercury

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union plans to ask Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle to take an active part in negotiations with Mercury Marine Inc., which has said it may close its factory in Fond du Lac, Wis., the Milwaukee Business Journal reported in a story yesterday.

Mercury has said it is considering shifting operations from the Fond du Lac facility to a plant in Stillwater, Okla., a move that would eliminate as many as 1,900 local jobs, according to the story.

“The state of Wisconsin cannot afford to stand by while a major corporation commits an act of economic extortion in its own backyard,” Russell Krings, business representative for the union, told the Business Journal. “Mercury Marine has benefited for decades from state and local tax incentives and public support. They cannot be allowed to use the current economic crisis to pit one small community against another for the privilege of their presence.”

Mercury Marine spokesman Steve Fleming said company management “would be surprised to see the governor enter into negotiations between a company and its employees.”

“We felt that, going into the weekend, that we were in the midst of negotiations with the union,” Fleming told the Business Journal. “We felt we were negotiating and the union feels otherwise. Obviously, some clarity is needed.”

Fleming said the company expects to make on decision on the Fond du Lac facility by the end of the summer. “We’re somewhat eager to continue with the process,” he told the Business Journal. “There is some urgency because the economic crisis remains and we need to react.”

Mercury Marine employs about 1,900 workers in Fond du Lac, split about evenly between hourly production employees and salaried personnel, Fleming said. The facility employed about 3,000 workers two years ago. The Oklahoma factory, which produces stern-drive engines, has about 400 employees, down from about 1,100 two years ago.

Company management and union officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning.

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