In two weeks at the 70th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, hundreds of thousands of bikers will have a chance to send a message to Harley-Davidson, Inc. and its fellow irresponsible corporations: Stop hoarding profits. Create jobs. Support America.
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. tries pretty hard to be seen as the all-American company. But its business practices are not exactly patriotic. As the New York Times reported, Harley-Davidson had a $71 million profit last quarter, yet it's shrinking its workforce by more than 20% -- killing about 3,500 jobs.
America needs profitable corporations to invest in America's recovery. Instead Harley-Davidson is suffocating it.
Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson continues its PR efforts to brand itself as part of the fabric of America, by sponsoring the famous Sturgis biker rally.
Harley-Davidson is even touting a 5-day ride from the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee to the rally in South Dakota with the company's top executives, including CEO Keith Wandell. The same Keith Wandell quoted in the New York Times article saying despite rising profits, hiring new workers is "the last thing we’re worried about...".
Biker blog Ride Like You Mean It minced no words in describing Harley-Davidson's business practices:
... for a 100+ year-old company which made so much from brand loyalty and labelling—and so little from engineering and quality control—it is galling. It is orphan-grade chutzpah to so lavishly reward Wall Street through devastating and empoverishing the union workers who builds their products. This shows such an incredible disconnect between the public face of H-D and its business strategy that it defies comprehension.
Frankly, I hope all the good, hard-working, hard-riding H-D owners will take a good long hard look at what H-D has become—reflected in its utter comtempt for the middle class—before they send another dime in the direction of Milwaukee. There are plenty of alternatives available to what was once an American icon, but is now just another metastatizing tumor, a corporatist cancer sucking the lifeblood from our country.
Sturgis bikers: is that the company you want representing your finest event?
If you are frustrated over the weak American economy, and angry at the lack of support for manufacturing in America, next month's Sturgis rally is a chance to send a message while the world is watching.
Whilte at Sturgis, signs, buttons, YouTube videos telling Harley-Davidson to stop hoarding profits and create American jobs, will not only send a message to Harley-Davidson, but to all the irresponsible corporations that, as the New York Times reported, are " focusing on cost-cutting to keep profits growing [with] the benefits ... mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy. ... [Their] focus remains on keeping profits high, not rebuilding work forces decimated by the recession."
The perception of Sturgis is that its attendees are mainly conservative. (Sen. John McCain got a roaring reception in 2008 when he suggested his wife could win the rally's annual topless beauty pageant.) But the issue of irresponsible corporations hoarding cash while millions of Americans need jobs is not an ideological one.
I'd go even farther and suggest that conservatives who don't want our government to carry the load of American recovery should demand that the private sector take the lead.
Harley-Davidson has every right to its business as it sees fit. But we have every right to make sure it can't polish it's all-American brand while stiffing American workers and stifling the American economy.