Monday, August 17, 2009

We need Merc

Letter to the Stillwater NewsPress

We need Merc

I have lived in Stillwater since 1963. During this period I have seen Stillwater grow and develop into a viable and complex economic community.

Over 30 years ago Mercury Marine became part of our community and a major manufacturing company that has provided employment for hundreds of people and has taken on the role of a responsible community citizen.

I have had the privilege of knowing a number of persons associated with Mercury Marine/Mercruiser, and I often heard great things about the company.

It was a pleasure to work with Bud Agner, a former manager, and a number of other employees over the years, who were and still are responsibly working on community issues to improve the Stillwater community. Always, I appreciated their efforts.

Stillwater, in my view, must not lose Mercury Marine/MerCruiser! During these difficult economic times we must do our very best to support and maintain Mercury Marine’s position in Stillwater.

I want to thank the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Larry Brown, Sen. Halligan, and Reps. Williams and Denney for their very active efforts to enable Mercury Marine to give serious consideration to staying in Stillwater.

Also, I want to express my appreciation and thanks to other business leaders who have been part of this effort. I appreciated Barry Eller’s recent letter to the editor.

My plea is for Mercury Marine to stay in Stillwater. Mercury Marine is critical to the economy of Stillwater and Oklahoma.

It has had over $100 million in contracts with Oklahoma suppliers and logistics companies.

In the Stillwater plant it has invested over $20 million annually in research and development, and nearly $10 million a year in capital improvements.

As our economy improves, and it will in time, Mercury Marine/Mercruiser will continue to grow and develop. It enjoys the foundation and the insightful leadership to make that happen.

I am looking forward to Mercury Marine/Mercruiser continuing to be part of our community and continuing its role as a great business and citizen of Stillwater.

Harold Sare


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mercury Marine, union continue talks

Article from The Business Journal of Milwaukee

Management of Mercury Marine Inc. continued negotiations with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Fond du Lac on Tuesday in talks aimed at saving about 1,900 local jobs.

The two sides resolved several items and remain on track to meet the target of completing negotiations by Aug. 17, according to a statement issued by the company.

Representatives of the company and the union met for about seven hours Tuesday.

Negotiations were scheduled to continue Wednesday morning, with additional sessions planned for Thursday and Friday, if needed.

Mercury Marine is attempting to decrease the level of underutilization of its facilities and consolidating its operations in either Fond du Lac or Stillwater, Okla., is being considered.

If an agreement is reached, union members would then vote on ratification. A decision by Mercury Marine regarding its next step would be determined in part by the union’s response to the tentative agreement, company management said.

The marine engine manufacturer employs about 1,900 workers in Fond du Lac, split about evenly between hourly production employees at its factory and salaried personnel at the company’s corporate headquarters.

Mercury Marine is a subsidiary of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Corp. (NYSE: BC) with about $2 billion in annual revenue.

'Roadblocks' noted by Mercury Marine union leader

Article from Oshkosh, WI. The Northwestern

The business representative for District 10 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said Mercury Marine has thrown a "lot of roadblocks" their way.

"We're talking about 40 to 50 years of hard negotiations with a company — in our talks going on — I would say they're rewriting (the contract)," Russell Krings said Wednesday night.

The two sides were set to resume talks at 9 a.m. today at Ramada Plaza Hotel. The session would mark the third this week as the sides work toward finalizing negotiations by Monday.

Mercury officials say they intend to reach a decision by Labor Day regarding possible consolidation of operations at its Fond du Lac headquarters or at Stillwater, Okla.

The company says if an agreement is reached with the IAM, it is expected that a vote would be conducted by members of the union within the following two weeks.
Krings said "it's way too early" to be making that type of statement.
Negotiations could continue Friday, if needed.

The company, in a press release issued Wednesday evening, said a decision by Mercury regarding its next step would be determined in part by the union's response to any tentative agreement.

Krings said he would do everything in his power, along with the negotiating committee and other representatives, to keep as many jobs as possible at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Merc union talks set to wrap up Monday

Article from Stillwater News Press
by Monique Headley

Merc union talks set to wrap up Monday

• Former president says long-range operation costs favor Stillwater

Union negotiations with Mercury Marine are expected to conclude by Monday. If an agreement is reached between Mercury and the union, union members may be called upon to vote on ratification within the following two weeks. A corporate decision regarding the next step would be determined in part by union response.

Mercury continues to work toward reaching a decision by the end of summer regarding possible consolidation of its Fond du Lac, Wis., and Stillwater operations.

The company has had several meetings with members of Local 1947 of the International Association of Machinists and Aviation Workers. Additional sessions were slated for 10 a.m. today with others possible on Thursday or Friday, said a representative of Mercury Marine.

According to posted comments from Mercury Marine President Mark D. Schwabero, “The current market requires us to make some very critical decisions over the next few weeks. We are bargaining not for enhancements or over political or philosophical differences, we must restructure our business to compete successfully in a very different market.”

All aware weigh the pros and cons of the situation.

Having spent time in Stillwater and Fond du Lac, former president of MerCruiser from 1990-2001, Barry Eller said to move operations, machinery, equipment and people from Stillwater to Fond du Lac, would be less work.

“The major issue for me, personally, that I would be looking at are the long-range costs of operation,” Eller said. “In the long run, I think being a nonunion workforce in a Right To Work state, you have a lot more flexibility which allows you to be a lot more productive.”

Eller believes the post-recession market will return to previous levels.

“Every time there has been a recession, the industry has come back - bigger and stronger,” he said.

Though not involved in negotiations, Eller said management is likely working to determine what the union will agree to and to make a decision. The company must also consider the incentives offered by Wisconsin and compare with those of Oklahoma, he said.

“They have good management and are accountable to shareholders,” Eller said. All employees are shareholders, he said.

As shareholders, said Eller, the top priorities are to have a job and protect the value of Brunswick stock shares.

“They will benefit from whatever decision is made,” he said.

Ultimately, said Eller, the decision management makes is not a reflection on the people or whether they do a good or bad job. “The industry has shrunk so much, management has to consolidate operations in order to survive and ... be a viable company,” Eller said. “The marine industry has been devastated. What is the recession for everyone else is three to four times that for the marine industry.” The perception of recreational dollars must return to income and consumer confidence, he said.

According to Eller, such unprecedented and low boating industry sales are no reflection on management. Mercury has maintained marketshare, he said.

From 2001-2004, Eller was also responsible for Wisconsin operations of the Original Equipment Manufacture division sales and product to boat building customers.

“I think the quality of the workforce in Stillwater is second to none. They have an excellent work ethic and are very conscientious on quality of product. They are very, very understanding on what it takes to keep a customer,” Eller said.

Terms of negotiation remain closely guarded.

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Mercury: Talks with union to continue

Below is a post from the FDL Reporter regarding negotiations between Mercury Marine and its union in Fond Du Lac:

August 12, 2009
Mercury: Talks with union to continue

Negotiations between representatives of Mercury Marine and its hourly union employees — a key component as Mercury decides whether to consolidate all or part of its operations in Fond du Lac or Stillwater, Okla. — are expected to continue today.

Company officials said some issues were resolved Tuesday.

Mercury Marine officials have presented wage and benefit proposals to the leadership of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers Local 1947.
The two sides have been meeting at Ramada Plaza Hotel. The company is seeking changes in three areas: work force flexibility, benefits and wages.

Further discussions are planned Thursday and Friday, if needed. Negotiations are scheduled to conclude Monday. If an agreement is reached, a vote by union members is expected within two weeks.

Mercury: Some union issues resolved today

Below is a post from the FDL Reporter regarding negotiations between Mercury Marine and its union in Fond Du Lac:

August 11, 2009
Mercury: Some union issues resolved today

Negotiations between representatives of Mercury Marine and its hourly union employees — a key component as Mercury decides whether to consolidate all or part of its operations in Fond du Lac or Stillwater, Okla. — are expected to continue today.

Company officials said some issues were resolved Wednesday.

Mercury Marine officials have presented wage and benefit proposals to the leadership of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers Local 1947.
The two sides have been meeting at Ramada Plaza Hotel.

The company is seeking changes in three areas: workforce flexibility, benefits and wages.

Further discussions are planned Thursday and Friday, if needed. Negotiations are scheduled to conclude Monday. If an agreement is reached, a vote by union members is expected within two weeks.

Mercury talks continuing

Below is a post from the FDL Reporter regarding negotiations between Mercury Marine and its union in Fond Du Lac:

August 9, 2009
Mercury talks continuing Two sides could finish negotiations by mid-August

FOND DU LAC — Negotiations between Mercury Marine and its union could be completed as soon as Aug. 17.

"Right now, both sides feel they can get that done," said Steve Fleming, communications director for Mercury Marine.

Representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1947 met last Thursday in an eight-hour session with company representatives at Ramada Plaza Hotel in downtown Fond du Lac.

The meeting was the fourth session for Mercury and the union.

"There was a lot of counter offers across the table regarding (contract) language," said Dan Longsine, chief negotiator for Local 1947.

'Lot of business' to cover

Longsine said both sides have "a lot of business" to attend to in the next couple of weeks.

The union side of the table, he said, included the nine-member negotiating team, a District 10 representative, an attorney and a researcher from Strategic Resources in Washington, D.C., who was present for the first time Thursday to assist with union-related questions.

The company, Longsine estimated, had six people participate, including its vice president of human resources, Ray Atchinson, and a representative of employment law firm Littler Mendelson.

"In order to formulate a final decision by the end of summer, we needed to make progress at this meeting and I think both committees worked hard to make that happen," said Mark Schwabero, president of Mercury Marine, who was briefed, but not in attendance at negotiations Thursday.

"The current market requires us to make some very critical decisions over the next few weeks. We are bargaining not for enhancements or over political or philosophical differences; we must restructure our business to compete successfully in a very different market," Schwabero added.

"Obviously, this is a very important juncture in this company's history," he said. "We must make the best decision at every opportunity."

Longsine said union membership has been "solidly behind" the negotiating team.

The state of the marine industry, hit particularly hard in the economic downturn, has prompted Mercury officials to consider a consolidation involving the Fond du Lac and Stillwater, Okla., plants.

State and local officials have vowed to assist the company in hopes that the 385 jobs in Stillwater would be moved north to the Fond du Lac headquarters, currently employing around 1,900.

Fleming said much of the discussion Thursday focused on operational flexibility, which along with benefits, formed Mercury's first proposal to the union. The company completed its presentation Monday with its wage proposal.

Mercury's proposal includes no wage reductions for current employees for the next three years and a structure for new hires that is "competitive in the Fox Valley."

More meetings planned

Health-care and retirement plans being proposed are said to be similar to current plans for salaried employees.

In addition, an early retirement incentive proposal would provide an opportunity for employees to retire with their current benefits. The company says it potentially could open new employment opportunities in the community.

More meetings are planned for this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, if needed.
Longsine said he's trying to be optimistic and said the negotiating team has "an obligation to represent the members with level heads."

He added that if the negotiating team reached a tentative agreement regarding changes, it would then be presented to members for a vote.

The meeting would be similar to one held July 26 at the Fond du Lac High School gym and Longsine said, "Everyone would get a ballot."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Latest News from Mercury Marine

To see what all is going on at Mercury Marine visit their news and events section on their website:

'We value the significant role'of Mercury Marine

Reposted from

Commentary: 'We value the significant role'of Mercury Marine

As an old Chinese proverb says, "A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it."

In these extreme economic conditions, we all must adapt to the circumstances we face on a daily basis. As we make our choices, we must look to the future and to the results they produce.

Mercury Marine is in the process of adapting its business plan in response to the economic conditions that exist today, and will exist tomorrow, and in the future. As part of the Brunswick Corporation, Mercury Marine has an obligation to make some extremely difficult decisions in the best interests of its customers, shareholders and employees.

For nearly 70 years, Mercury Marine has been a major contributor to our community. The company has not only provided many families with continued employment and stability, it also has shown its generosity in support of many worthwhile charities and projects. Mercury employees have been an integral part of our community and have served us well.

Reaching the best outcome for all involved will require vision, commitment and cooperation from a multitude of parties. As City Council president, I can assure you that the City of Fond du Lac has joined with Fond du Lac County and the state to put together an extremely competitive package allowing Mercury Marine to remain right here in Fond du Lac while helping to ensure that the company can emerge from this slowdown a stronger company.

This is a critical time for our city, county and state. As the Mercury management team and labor union make their decision about the future, I hope they will take into consideration their importance to all involved. As talks continue with the union, my hope is that within these talks both parties will consider their decisions and the profound impact their choices will have on the future of every citizen, business and employee of our community.

Remember: "Wise men adapt themselves to circumstances."

In the next few weeks, we as a community must pull together and let Mercury officials and their employees know they have our support. We value the significant role that Mercury Marine plays in our community and look forward to a positive and prosperous relationship in Fond du Lac for at least another 70 years.

Tim Lakin, a business owner, serves as president of the Fond du Lac City Council.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chamber asks for support for Mercury Marine

Article from The Journal
By Michele Charles

Chamber asks for support for Mercury Marine

The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce has circulated an e-mail asking all citizens and community leaders to generate positive buzz about keeping MerCruiser production in Stillwater by writing letters to the editor, writing letters to corporate leaders, blogging and posting positive comments on internet message boards. MerCruiser is a division of Mercury Marine, which is owned by Brunswick Corp.

The company, which builds stern drive boat motors at its Stillwater plant is considering consolidating stern drive production with their out board motor production, currently located in Fond Du Lac, Wis.

“All options of consolidation are under consideration,” Mercury Marine president Mark Schwabero told the Fond Du Lac Reporter on July 16. “including Fond du Lac operations moving to Stillwater, Stillwater operations moving to Fond du Lac or moving certain operations there and leaving others here.”

Mercury Marine is the largest employer in Fond Du Lac. The plant employed 3,000 workers at its peak and currently employs 1,900.

Stillwater’s MerCruiser plant was formerly one of the city’s largest employers. Stillwater Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Larry Brown said the Stillwater plant has employed up to 1,100 workers. Current workers number about 380.

“We consider ourselves to be a MerCruiser town,” Brown said.

Brown said Mercury Marine has its best chance for long-term economic health and viability if it consolidates in Stillwater due to Oklahoma’s lower corporate taxes and costs. He also cited Stillwater’s centralized location and proximity to quality education and training institutions as advantages.

The City of Stillwater, Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, Stillwater Industrial Foundation and the State of Oklahoma have worked together to develop what Brown called “an extremely comprehensive and very competitive incentive package.” He said he couldn’t give specific details.

The Fond Du Lac Reporter quoted Mercury Marine spokesman Steve Fleming saying the company has been in discussions with both Wisconsin and Oklahoma officials.

Mercury Marine is meeting with union representative in Fond Du Lac to renegotiate a three year contract that went into effect in June 2008.

Talks will focus on wages, benefits and worker flexibility to help the company recover, Schwabero is quoted as saying.

The Stillwater plant is a non-union facility.

Brown said keeping Mercury Marine, which has a $100 million impact on the state’s economy, in Stillwater is the best thing for both the company and the community.

“Going forward, this is where they need to be,” he said.

The Chamber has created a blog to support their efforts. They ask people to post comments at

Brown said Mercury Marine officials have said they will make a decision by the end of summer, but they haven’t given a specific date.
Some email response to the NewsPress article "Glass Half Full"

Hello Mr. Brown,
After reading the article Mercury Glass Half Full, I felt compelled to send you this e-mail. I work at the Mercury Fond du lac facility and will have 35 years in this October. I take great offense in some of the things you mention, especially your stated goal of taking the Fond du lac jobs and bringing them to Stillwater. I feel that you and your team are very shortsighted & selfish ! I can understand trying to preserve the jobs you have, but to actively pursue taking away the livelihood's of upwards of 2,000 people is simply irresponsible ! Do you understand what that would do to our community ? Do you even care ?? I am very surprised and saddened that a chamber official from another community would want to be so destructive for your own gain. I understand that things are bad, they are bad everywhere, but step back and decide is this really the right thing to do to another community ?

The other thing you mentioned is that the quality of the Stillwater plant is second to none, even other Merc plants. Have you ever even been to our facility ? Do you have data to support this ? I think not and I believe those are frivolous & unwarranted comments.

In closing I believe that Fond du lac will retain our facility because our people will come through knowing the ramifications to our community. In the future I would ask you to take care of your own and not intrude on the livelihood's of people in other communities.

Regards - Paul Crane

Larry Brown's reply:

Mr. Crane
Thank you for your comments. I certainly understand your concerns as they are the same concerns that our Mercury Marine employees, as well as our city, are facing.

Larry R. Brown
Stillwater Chamber of Commerce

Good morning Mr. Brown,
My name is Richard Baldwin and on the 8/20 I will have worked for MerCruiser for 25 years. I'm hoping I can eventually retire from this company that I take great pride in. I just want to take a minute to thank you and everyone that is involved in trying to keep MerCruiser right here in Stillwater. From what I have heard our local and State officials have really stepped up with their efforts to keep MerCruiser where it belongs here in Stillwater. Keep up the good work, I'm very proud to be an Oklahoman. Thanks for all your efforts.

Richard Baldwin
Quality Group Leader
Measurement Services

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chamber: Mercury glass half full

Article from Stillwater News Press
by Monique Headley

Chamber: Mercury glass half full

Stillwater and state officials have done everything possible to entice Mercury Marine to move its Fond du Lac, Wis., operations here, said Larry Brown, president and CEO of the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.

A deal has not been completed, but negotiations with the marine and recreation product’s parent company, Brunswick Corp., continue.

Four months ago, Brown didn’t believe local and state officials had done all they could to convince Brunswick Corp. officials to merge the Fond du Lac, Wis., MerCruiser plant with Stillwater’s plant.

That’s all changed.

“The issues have been brought forward for future growth ... Opportunities are very solid. We have created very aggressive packages. There is nothing short of being able to buy the company and move it here that we haven’t done, Brown said.

“The waiting is the toughest ... Brunswick has to be responsible and focus on shareholders needs and the future of the company.”

The Chamber, the city of Stillwater, Stillwater Foundation for Progress and Oklahoma state legislators Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, and House Reps. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, and Lee Denney, R-Cushing, continue to work with Brunswick Corp. officials. The goal is to:

• Maintain the 385 jobs currently at the Stillwater plant.

• Add the jobs from the Wisconsin plant.

• Keep the more than $100 million Mercury Marine adds to the state economy through suppliers, logistics and transportation vendors, Chamber Director of Economic Development Josh McKim said.

• Maintain the $20 million in research and development that Mercury does in Stillwater. MerCruiser is the largest research and development company in town, McKim said.

• Continue receiving the $45 million in taxes the MerCruiser payroll contributes to state and community coffers.

Mercury Marine’s future is Stillwater, Brown said with cautious optimism. It is a Mercury Marine town, and the local plant produces the highest quality, most innovative sterndrives in the world, he said.

“The quality of the plant is second to none including that of other Mercury plants,” he added.

Of course, the company’s future is moot if the Stillwater plant closes.

“Bottom line, we’ve got to provide an atmosphere for future growth in Stillwater. That’s been our goal for the past six to seven months,” he said.

McKim said talks with Brunswick Corp. began with a simple question, “Is there anything we can do for you?”

He said the results include ways to save on costs and reconnecting the company with Meridian Technology Center for workshops, training and employee assistance.

The U.S. Department of Labor cited the partnership as a best practice model for management and administration of apprenticeship training programs, said E. Brent Chesney, director of Business and Industry Services at Meridian.

Oklahoma is a right-to-work state, and Brown calls it a positive factor in the talks. However, recent unionization of electricians and communications workers means the prospects for unions in Stillwater are unknown.

“The plant has remained nonunion for 35 years. You have highly trained employees who are dedicated to the plant and community. They are treated fairly and received a good wage for a day’s work. Hopefully, going forward, that employee attitude will continue,” Brown said, noting union issues are best left to the company and its employees.

He expressed displeasure with Wisconsin unions’ online comments that suggest Stillwater is trying to steal the Wisconsin facility. Stillwater has 35 years of history with Mercury Marine, he said, and the company has employed thousands of Stillwater families.

“We are not out-of-town opportunists,” he said. “If it was aimed at us, it’s unfortunate the union has taken that tactic.”

Preservation of the Stillwater plant is a primary concern, and Brown and McKim promised to stay aggressive in their efforts.

“We really took a proactive versus reactive position with Mercury Marine ... Brunswick has four operations in the U.S. and two outside. They are operating at a capacity not economically feasible to continue,” he said. “Fundamentally, they have to get their manufacturing footprint realigned ... We are working closely with them to address.”

Brown said the boating industry and economy could turn around in the next 18 to 24 months. When that happens, he said, it would be the right decision for strengthened and expanded Mercury operations to be based in Stillwater.

Brown said he can be contacted at 372-5573 or for to discuss any issues that will not violate the confidentiality of negotiations.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Call to Action

Thanks to each and every one of you who have supported our efforts to retain and grow the Mercury Marine/Mercruiser manufacturing plant in Stillwater. We are now entering a new phase in our efforts to solidify the long term Mercruiser presence in Stillwater. The incentive packages have been sent and legislation has been passed. Now comes the PR battle. We need to make sure Mercury Marine and Brunswick leadership know how important the Mercruiser plant and Mercury Marine in general, are to Stillwater and Oklahoma. We are sending this email to you because you are part of this community’s leadership and your organizations and companies will be impacted significantly if the Stillwater Mercruiser plant were to close. We need to generate buzz/ excitement about Mercury Marine as a company and as a part of our city. The Mercruiser plant has traditionally had over $100 million dollars of contracts with Oklahoma Suppliers and Logistics companies. Mercury Marine has traditionally invested nearly $10 million a year in capital improvements, as well as over $20 million dollars annually in research and development at the Stillwater plant. Employment levels have been as high as 1200 people. Mercruiser has been an stellar community partner, contributing to local charities and paying significant taxes, all while providing quality jobs. We realize the magnitude of the decision facing the Mercury Marine mamagement team. Mercury Marine must take the steps necessary to face the future as a strong, competitive and economically sound business. It makes business sense for the company to consolidate their production. We need to let Brunswick/Mercury Marine know that Stillwater is the right decision for the future. The company already knows that Corporate Income tax is lower in Oklahoma, utility costs are lower and product distribution networks are better. Mercury Marine and Brunswick need to know that the community wants and needs them- this consolidation will firmly place them in either Stillwater or Fond Du Lac at the expense of the other community. We need to make sure that it is Stillwater . We are calling on you to support our efforts with letters to the editor, letters to corporate leadership and blogging- when you see an article in the newspress get online and write a positive comment about Mercury Marine and Brunswick and about how important they are to Stillwater. Please take just a little time to do these things.