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Strike is over: Kohler Co. union workers vote to approve new contract

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KOHLER -- The strike is over. After a month of picketing -- Kohler Company union workers will return to work on Thursday, December 17th. They have voted in favor of a new contract.

Kohler Co. union workers vote to ratify new contract

Kohler Co. union workers vote to ratify new contract

The president of UAW Local 833, Tim Tayloe, says a month ago, he asked his members for a vote against the contract, and in favor of a strike.

On Wednesday evening, he asked that they vote in support of a new contract.

And they did -- with 91% of the more than 1,800 who voted voting in favor.

"We gave a little, they gave a little -- so I think it`s a fair enough contract," a Kohler union worker said.

It was announced late Tuesday night that union members and Kohler Company had reached a contract agreement. This, after a month-long strike.

Kohler Co. union workers vote to ratify new contract

Kohler Co. union workers vote to ratify new contract

That contract then had to be approved via the vote.

Kohler Company UAW Local 833 workers on strike

Kohler Company UAW Local 833 workers on strike

Now, Kohler Company union workers will return to work on Thursday, for the first time in a month.

"I'm looking forward to it," a Kohler union worker said.

David Kohler, president and CEO of Kohler Co.  issued the following statement after UAW Local 833 ratified the contract:

We are pleased that our associates have ratified a contract that provides them with increased pay, enhanced benefits and a fair compensation package.  Kohler Co. maintains a competitive wage structure that is essential for our Wisconsin facility to grow jobs going forward.  Most important, we welcome our associates back to work, where together, we will continue to work hard to exceed our customers’ expectations.”

According to Kohler, the contract includes a livable wage for so-called "Tier B" employees.

Wednesday was the first day in a month that workers were not manning the picket line outside the Kohler plant.

"Looking very quiet here right now," Elizabeth DeDecker said.

It was a different scene in Kohler Wednesday as compared with two weeks ago, when DeDecker visited Kohler to shop.

Kohler Company workers went on strike on November 15th.

During the strike, workers took shifts on the picket line, and earned $200 per week in strike pay.

Union members were unhappy with Kohler's contract offer -- specifically a two-tier wage system and health care costs.

When some workers crossed the picket line and returned to work, their names were made public.

Kohler Co. 'scab list'

Kohler Co. 'scab list'

It wasn't just employees who took part in the picketing.

"I did see the families actually right there with, I'm assuming, the workers," DeDecker said.

"Everybody would like to go back to work, but it's got to be under the right circumstances," a Kohler union worker said.

Kohler Co. strike

Kohler Co. strike

UAW Local 833 officials said in a statement to FOX6 News:

"The (contract) agreement significantly brings one-tier associate pay closer to the other, while also providing substantial wage increases in each year of the contract."

Kohler Company officials said:

"The common ground that we share is more important than any differences we may have, and this agreement reflects that."

"It was a little divisive for our community to be involved in that, and I'm just glad its over and hopefully life will go on fine here," Peggy Feider said.

That's what Tayloe is hoping for -- pride once again in Kohler.

"A lot of that was lost from 2010 to 2015. A lot of that was lost -- and I think this is a good way to rebuild that and a good way to move forward and a good way to show what we can do out here in Kohler, Wisconsin," Tayloe said.

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