Mercury union votes down contract

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Union workers at Mercury Marine overwhelmingly rejected the company's contract proposal Sunday and the company says that means much of the Fond du Lac, Wis., operations will be moving to Stillwater, Okla.

"We appreciate the patient support of our employees and communities as we've gone through this process," said Mark Schwabero, president of Mercury Marine, in a statement.

"This has been a very difficult and stressful process for all involved. We will work closely with our team in Fond du Lac to develop and communicate a transition plan for this 24- to 36-month process," he added.

Mercury said it will continue to operate the Fond du Lac facility under the terms and conditions of the existing contract, which expires in 2012.

Mercury said it expects to finalize details of state and local support programs during the next few days. Detailed plans and programs will be announced as they become available, and the company said it expects the full consolidation to take between 24 and 36 months.

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers - the union that represents production workers at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac - met at 9 a.m. Sunday to cast ballots that were later tallied at the headquarters of the IAMAW Local chapter 1947.

The proposal, which was presented to the union Aug. 19, is valid until Aug. 29 at midnight.

Union officials said the conmpany's proposal would eliminate pensions, jobs and health care for thousands of Wisconsin workers and their families.

"Mercury Marine never intended for this offer to be accepted," IAM Midwest Territory vice president Philip Gruber said in a statement. "Despite progress on every major issue and a commitment by the IAM to continue bargaining, the company balked in the final hours and added terms and conditions that assured members would reject the offer."

The union said Mercury Marine repeatedly claimed a yes vote would preserve jobs and keep the company headquartered in Fond du Lac, but the company refused to make that commitment in writing, leaving many employees convinced the company fully intended to move production out of Fond du Lac, regardless of the vote outcome.

"Despite the outcome of [the] vote, we will always work with Mercury Marine to improve quality, reduce unit cost and protect the brand," said Gruber. "We are open to meet with the company to discuss these matters in good faith."

Click here for a Journal Sentinel article on fallout from the vote.

Click here for the full Mercury release.