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Partial victory achieved, Kohler strike ends

By staff |
December 20, 2015
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Kohler strikers on the picket lines
Kohler strikers on the picket lines (Fight Back! News/Staff)
UAW Local 833 Emil Mazy Hall with donations for Kohler strikers
Adam Fredrick of Bring Back the Fight, at UAW Local 833 Emil Mazy Hall with donations for Kohler strikers

Milwaukee, WI - A 32-day strike at Kohler Co. ended Dec. 16, resulting in a partial victory for over 2000 Kohler workers represented by UAW 833.

Voting 91% to ratify the new agreement, the strikers’ two main issues were addressed, as the wage gap between the two-tier pay system was narrowed and health insurance benefits were enhanced. With hundreds set to retire in the next few years, the two-tier system remains, hiring in new workers with less pay and benefits.

Equal pay for the same work, a challenge to the two-tier system, was a major theme of the strike, which garnered strong support from surrounding communities.

"The attacks against all workers have been relentless in recent years," commented Corey Oliver of the Milwaukee-based United Worker Organization. "This all-out strike against a greedy billionaire family was a counter-offensive and inspired many of us."

The Kohler strike began with a militant outpouring of action. Workers turned away trucks from entering the Kohler campus. They marched through town and gained support from across the nation. Local unions such as Teamsters 344 publicly pledged their support as UPS drivers refused to cross the picket line.

The Kohler family struck back, getting an injunction against UAW 833, leveraging labor law that's been crafted to defeat the very tactics that win strikes: the halting of production and labor solidarity. Yet with only a handful crossing the picket line out of thousands of workers on strike, Kohler could not run their facility at full capacity and felt the pressure to offer a better contract.

With this partial victory achieved in a not-so-common 2000-plus worker strike, in a climate of Right-to-Work and increased attacks on workers and oppressed communities, the labor movement pushes on.