Democrats Seize on Harley Plant Closing in Trump Attack

(Bloomberg) -- Harley-Davidson Inc. may go from a darling of Donald Trump to a potential political liability during the midterm elections this fall.

The Democratic National Committee released a more than four minute-long video this week seizing on the motorcycle manufacturer’s decision in January to close a Missouri bike plant and buy back stock, weeks after Republicans slashed the U.S. corporate tax rate.

“Trump and Republicans in Congress promised their tax bill would create more jobs and put more money in the pockets of American workers,” the DNC wrote in the video published Wednesday. “Shortly after the passage of the Republican tax law, Harley gave $700 million to shareholders and executives and announced it would eliminate 800 jobs.”

Harley will shutter a Kansas City factory in 2019 and consolidate that production into a plant in York, Pennsylvania, to align output with slumping U.S. demand. The company has caught flack for this decision from both sides of the aisle: Missouri’s Claire McCaskill -- a Democratic Senator up for re-election in November -- and three Republican congressman sent a letter to Chief Executive Officer Matthew Levatich in February urging him to reconsider.

Democrats Seize on Harley Plant Closing in Trump Attack

“A lot of these big corporations are not concerned with their workers,” Josh Rich, a Harley employee and United Steelworkers member, says in the DNC’s video. “I have two small children, been doing this for 14 years. Now I’m going to have to go find something else to do. Hopefully it pays a living wage.”

Michael Pflughoeft, a spokesman for Milwaukee-based Harley, declined to comment.

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The relationship between Trump and Harley has sharply reversed course since the president cast the company as a model American manufacturer shortly after taking office.

Harley announced plans last month to further retrench U.S. operations by shifting production of bikes destined for Europe to overseas facilities. The company estimates the European Union’s tariffs on American-made products, which were implemented in retaliation for Trump’s steel and aluminum levies, will boost costs by as much as $100 million a year.
Trump has attacked Harley’s move in at least a half dozen tweets, claiming the manufacturer was using tariffs as an excuse to send jobs abroad. The president reached out to the company to ask that it keep jobs in the U.S., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this month.

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