Company management cites "questions surrounding the voting process" in announcing a new round of balloting this Thursday and Friday.
Audio: TODAY'S TMJ4 HD Reporter Tom Murray on 620WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News"
FOND DU LAC - In a surprise move, Mercury Marine management and union leaders announced Fond du Lac manufacturing workers will get a third chance to vote on concessions.
"It's back on the roller coaster," said Rick Schmidt, a worker who campaigned for another chance to cast a ballot. Mercury executives met with Illinois-based Midwest Territory representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Tuesday at the company's headquarters in Fond du Lac. Responding to a question from TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Michael George, Governor Jim Doyle revealed his involvement in the dispute. "I've been talking to both sides over the last couple days," Doyle said. "I hope we get to a nice clean vote by the union to decide if they accept that offer or not." In separate releases, Mercury and the union cited pressure from government leaders and "questions surrounding the voting process" for granting another round of balloting. There are 850 manufacturing jobs at stake. "Hundreds of employees expressed a desire to voice their true feelings, and that's something we can't ignore," Mercury President Mark Schwabero said in a statement. "Obviously, this is a difficult situation for all employees in Fond du Lac and Stillwater." Union members will be allowed to vote Thursday and Friday on the same proposal they rejected on August 23. Congressman Thomas Petri (R - Fond du Lac) believes this a chance to save at jobs. "A lot of suppliers and others rely on Mercury," Petri told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray. Employees have said they felt tricked into voting 'no' the first time because negotiations were continuing. When a second offer never surfaced, several members publicly spoke out against their union leadership and expressed a sense of abandonment from district and territorial representatives. Local 1947 attempted a second vote on August 29, starting just two hours before the offer expired. They did not finish in time. Even so, workers continued to vote until Monday afternoon when leaders pulled the ballot box on the belief that company management would not accept the outcome. Mercury insists it must freeze pay and reduce benefits to continue operating in Wisconsin. Without concessions, the company said it will move outboard boat engine manufacturing to a non-union plant in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Mercury is also considering moving its corporate headquarters to Oklahoma, a decision that was expected as soon as this week. The company will likely hold off on that announcement until after the union vote. Stillwater and Fond du Lac have both submitted incentive packages.