Mercury Marine Rejects Union’s Hasty 2nd Vote

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) -- The union representing 850 workers at Mercury Marine scrapped plans Sunday for a last-minute, second vote on a new contract after the company said it wouldn't honor ballots cast after midnight.

Workers voted last week to reject wage and benefit concessions the boat engine maker demanded to keep jobs in Fond du Lac. Mercury Marine said then that it would move jobs to a nonunion plant in Oklahoma.

Mark Zillges, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1947, said Friday there would be no second vote on the offer.

But union officials scheduled a second vote late Saturday after several hundred workers signed petitions calling for one before the contract offer expired. Voting started about 10 p.m. Saturday, lasted until midnight and was to resume at 6 a.m. Sunday.

Then union officials said early Sunday morning that a Mercury Marine executive told them the company would not honor ballots cast after midnight, when the offer expired.

The union canceled the Sunday voting and will probably void ballots cast Saturday, said its chief negotiator, Dan Longsine. The union wanted to continue voting Sunday to give members enough opportunity to cast ballots, he said.

Mercury Marine had repeatedly said the proposal was its "best and final" offer. It said the deal did not involve pay cuts, but the union said workers were asked to give up 2 percent raises in each of the last two years of their current contract. The average hourly wage now is about $20, the union said.

The company issued a statement at 2:15 a.m. Sunday, saying it will continue to operate the Fond du Lac plant under the terms of the existing contract, which expires in 2012. But it also said it would begin planning to move jobs from Fond du Lac to Stillwater, Okla.