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Small businesses worry as Kohler strike drags on

Posted: 12:24 PM, Dec 04, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-04 13:24:22-05

WAUWATOSA -- There are more people than just union members and Kohler executives watching and waiting for movement on the strike.

As the work stoppage nears the three-week milestone, remodeling companies and small businesses are wondering if they're going to have to supply their projects with other brands.

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"If there's a delay in getting that product, the domino's start to fall," said Richard Chase, of Saver's Kitchen and Bath. "Especially in Wisconsin people are very loyal (to Kohler) and people want what they want."

Larry Chase, who owns and managers Saver's along with his brother, Richard, maintained that current kitchen or bathroom construction projects won't run into trouble. Instead, it's the upcoming work several months away that would be in jeopardy if the strike persists.

"Clients would have to make a decision," Chase said. "If they're devoted to a specific fixture or faucet, there might be something with the competitor product."

The current dispute between Kohler and UAW local 833 revolves around pay; union members want to get rid of the company's two-tiered pay scale. Kohler executives argue the company's workers are some of the best paid in the region. 

On Thursday, officials from both sides met - however briefly - for the first time since the strike began last month. There are plans to speak next week as well.