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Strike Shuts Down Harley-Davidson Plant

Union workers began a strike against Harley-Davidson at midnight Friday, picketing at the company's largest manufacturing plant.

More than 50 workers gathered at the main gate of the company's York facilities as the strike began, said Tom Boger, a union representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 175.

Boger said the company installed cement barricades to block access to all gates, even empty parking lots.

The strike comes two days after unionized workers rejected the company's contract offer and authorized a walkout.

In anticipation of the strike, the company shut down production at the plant on Thursday.

"We are obviously disappointed by the union's decision," Fred Gates, general manager of Harley-Davidson's York operations, said in a statement Thursday. "The proposed contract was structured to help manage future costs that could be detrimental to our business over the long term."

The statement also announced the suspension of production of the company's Touring and Softail motorcycles.

The company said its proposal included annual wage increases of 4 percent over three years. But part of the increase depended on the union agreeing to contribute toward health insurance coverage; unionized employees currently pay no premium. It also would have doubled the company's 401(k) retirement plan contributions and created a two-tier wage system under which new hires would be paid less than current ones.

Boger said the union was prepared to return to negotiations.

"We'll wait for the company to call us," he said.

The facility employs more than 3,200 union and nonunion workers.

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