Harley-Davidson workers are reeling after a new report revealed a plant closure and layoffs were planned as the company expected to reap huge financial benefits from a corporate tax cut.
A recent story on Vox, a news and opinion website, showed how the motorcycle manufacturer accepted a tax break, cut 350 jobs and then gave money to shareholders.
More: Harley-Davidson took a tax cut, then cut 350 jobs: report
“We did everything Harley-Davidson asked us to do,” welder Tim Primeaux said in an NBC News interview. “To have it all blow up in your face is kind of disappointing.”
Primeaux has worked at Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City, Missouri, plant for 17 years.
When Harley-Davidson in January announced it would slash 800 jobs upon closing the Kansas City plant by fall 2019, Primeaux said he and other workers were in a state of “shock and awe.”
“It was like I was in a bad dream, just stuck in it,” Primeaux told NBC News.
Amid the Kansas City closure, 450 full-time, casual and contractor positions will be added at the Springettsbury Township facility in York County, yielding a loss of 350 jobs overall.
More: York County wins 450 jobs as Harley-Davidson moves Kansas City work to Springettsbury
Days after it announced the plant closure and cuts, the company announced a $696 million dividend increase and stock buyback plan.
That came on the heels of the company sharing plans to open a plant in Thailand and taking a corporate tax cut from 35 percent to 21 percent.
The company maintains that the dividend increase and stock buyback are unrelated to the tax savings, and the Bangkok plant is unrelated to the Kansas City closure.
Harley-Davidson has said closing the Kansas City plant was a tough decision and necessary because U.S. sales are down and the company needed to address “excess capacity.”
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Rick Pence, who has worked at the Kansas City plant for 21 years, isn’t buying that.
“They are sending our jobs overseas. Absolutely,” Pence, a machine repairman, said to NBC News.
Company executives were asked multiple times what it would take to keep the plant in Kansas City, according to Harley-Davidson’s union president Kevin Amos, who has worked 17 years for the bike maker. He told NBC News he was under the impression workers were doing everything to keep the company in Missouri.
“We thought we had met the mark. Clearly we didn’t,” Amos said in an interview.
The workers agreed they’ve loved working for Harley-Davidson, and Pence said he felt like he won the lottery when he got hired.
Primeaux is still holding hope company leaders will change their minds and keep the plant open in Kansas City — not just for himself, but for his three daughters.
“If my girls want to work there it’s a good place to work,” he said to NBC News.
When Harley-Davidson received news of the tax cut in September, House Speaker Paul Ryan said reform meant companies like Harley would be able to keep jobs in America.
Since then, a CNBC survey determined that’s not happening, and only 10 companies say they plan to use the tax savings to boost worker pay.
But Primeaux isn’t holding that against Congress or President Donald Trump.
“I blame the company more than I blame the president,” he said in the NBC News interview.