Plumbing Industry News: Monthlong Kohler Strike Ends

Ditch Witch founder passes away, Grohe among Germany’s most sustainable companies
Plumbing Industry News: Monthlong Kohler Strike Ends
Union workers approved a new contract Wednesday night, ending a monthlong strike against the Kohler Company. (Photo and video courtesy TMJ4)

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The monthlong strike by Kohler Company workers in Wisconsin ended Wednesday evening when union workers ratified the company’s latest contract proposal. The contract passed by 91 percent.

The strike by UAW Local 833 workers that began Nov. 15 centered on equal pay for its 2,100 members. The company had been operating under a two-tier wage structure where those in the top tier doing the same job could earn up to $8 an hour more than employees in the lower tier.

TMJ4 in Milwaukee reported the new four-year contract includes higher wages and benefits and brings workers closer in pay.

“We worked very hard to reach an agreement that addresses all of the key areas crucial to the future of our members,” says Tim Tayloe, UAW Local 833 president. “The agreement significantly brings one tier associate pay closer to the other, while also providing substantial wage increases in each year of the contract. All benefits have been enhanced and the modifications to the healthcare plans have reduced the potential for increased out-of-pocket costs to our membership.”

Workers returned to their jobs on Thursday.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement that recognizes the contributions of our associates and positions our local, Wisconsin operations to be more competitive in the future,” says David Kohler, Kohler Co. president and chief executive officer. “The common ground that we share is more important than any differences we may have – and this agreement reflects that.”

Ditch Witch founder Ed Malzahn passes away

Ditch Witch founder Ed Malzahn passed away Dec. 11. He was 94. Malzahn launched the first service line trencher, the Ditch Witch model DWP, in 1949 from a small machine shop in Oklahoma.

Today, Charles Machine Works employs over 1,500 workers and has more than 175 dealerships and branches serving 195 counties while remaining a family business. Malzahn’s granddaughter Tiffany Sewell-Howard, who represents the fifth-generation of the Malzahn family, serves as the executive chair.

Malzahn is survived by his three children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

“Ed was the inspirational leader of the Ditch Witch and Charles Machine Works family for over 65 years,” says Rick Johnson, chief executive officer for Charles Machine Works. “He possessed a sharp mind, strong rural work ethic and generous spirit – all of which he used to better those around him.” 

Malzahn was a member of the Oklahoma Inventors Hall of Fame, American Rental Association Hall of Fame, Construction Equipment Hall of Fame and North American Society for Trenchless Technology Hall of Fame. He also was named Inventor of the Year by the Oklahoma Bar Association: Patent, Trademark and Copyright Section.

He held deep Oklahoma roots and made the needs of his community and its residents a priority. Malzahn’s efforts as a civic leader and philanthropist included volunteer service and financial contributions to numerous organizations and boards at the local, state and national level. 

Grohe named one of Germany’s most sustainable companies

Grohe AG received a top-three ranking among Germany’s Most Sustainable Major Companies of 2015. The company was recognized for its technologies that enable millions of people to use water and sanitary products in a sustainable way, including electronically operated faucets, the Blue kitchen system that reduces a household’s carbon footprint and waste volume, as well as a range of products incorporating Grohe EcoJoy technology that cuts water consumption by up to 50 percent.

The company also has substantially lowered its carbon emissions through heat recuperation and boosted its brass recycling rate to 80 percent. The company has set up a SustainAbility Council to advise on company-wide sustainability and in 2011 instituted the SustainAbility Trophy to reward employee suggestions for sustainability improvements.

 “We are working to become the sanitary industry’s most sustainable company by 2020,” says Grohe AG CEO Michael Rauterkus. "I take pride in our company being named one of Germany’s most sustainable major companies, which I believe to be a clear signal that we are making great strides towards our objective. Our ambition is to be a role model for the sanitary fittings industry and I hope that many companies will follow our lead and define themselves on the theme of sustainability as much as they do on their products and services.”

Laufen chosen interior design honoree

Laufen was a 2015 Interior Design Best of Year award honoree in the Bath Fixtures Category for the INO Bathroom Collection during this month’s presentation in New York City. The Swiss-based manufacturer of high-end bathroom solutions was among 1,600 entries in dozens of categories and received over 60,000 votes by members of the Architectural and Design Community.

“We are extremely honored and proud to be considered as a Best of Year award honoree in the Bathroom Fixtures category,” says Javier Korneluk, U.S. managing director for Laufen. “With so many wonderful entries and designers chosen for these awards, Laufen is thrilled to be considered among the top designs in the bath industry for the INO Collection.”

North Carolina plumber wins Mansfield sweepstakes grand prize

James Blue of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was the grand prize winner of a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Sport 4x4 in the Ultimate Summit Sweepstakes sponsored by Mansfield Plumbing.

 “I could hardly keep my feet on the ground because I was so excited when I found out,” says Blue, a senior service technician and 32-year-employee with Wade Hardin Plumbing. I've installed Mansfield Plumbing products all my life and have them in my own home. To win this grand prize is simply phenomenal.

Blue was entered in the sweepstakes by his plumbing wholesaler, Hubbard Pipe and Supply, during the summer promotion and received an entry for every Summit toilet he purchased for his customers.

Wade Hardin, owner of Wade Hardin Plumbing in Fayetteville, says the prize couldn’t have been award to a more deserving employee.

“James has an incredible work ethic,” Hardin says. “He’s the kind of guy who is mentoring our younger employees while tackling his own job responsibilities. He and his wife, Bernice, are terrific people and we couldn’t be happier for them.”

The sweepstakes for licensed plumbers and contractors ran from June through September. In addition to the Jeep Wrangler grand prize, there were five Weber Genesis Gas Grills, 10 prizes of $100 gift certificates to Texas Roadhouse, and 50 prizes of folding buck knives awarded.  

In a concurrent promotion, wholesale distributors of Summit toilets were able to participate in a Scratch 'n Win contest, receiving a game card for every Summit toilet ordered. The $5,000 grand prize was won by the team at R.A. Townsend Company in Alpena, Michigan.

“Our purchasing manager, Daryl Kauffman, says he nearly passed out when he scratched off the three matching $5,000 amounts,” says Therese Muszynski, co-owner of R.A. Townsend Company. “We’re all very excited and plan to share the $5,000 with all of our employees.”  


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