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Harley-Davidson Looks To Grow New Markets As Trump Fumes

Mitch Teich
Harley-Davidson riders from across the United States will be in Milwaukee Labor Day weekend for the company's 115th Anniversary Celebration.

The Harleys are on their way to Milwaukee — actually, many of them are already here. Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary Celebration officially runs Labor Day weekend, but numerous gatherings of motorcycle enthusiasts are already taking place around the region this week. But as thousands of owners and riders celebrate, the Milwaukee-based company still finds itself in some controversial circumstances linked to the president’s trade policy.

Harley-Davidson announced earlier this year that it would consolidate some of its U.S. operations, shifting jobs from Kansas City to Pennsylvania, and move some production overseas because of President Trump’s tariffs and trade war with Europe. That triggered a backlash from the president, who called for people to boycott the company. 

"Here, he’s going to war against a company that has a lot of very high paid, high skilled jobs in the U.S., and threatening them with taxes and a boycott. So, that just threatens those very jobs that he’s trying to protect and makes no sense at all," says Bill Saporito, editor-at-large at Inc. magazine. He's written about the president’s beef with Harley and is a contributor to the New York Times editorial board.

Saporito notes that this very public tension with Harley-Davidson is just one example of a larger friction in American manufacturing.

"I think this kind of nexus between manufacturing jobs and union jobs is where the real friction is. You can't on one hand promote manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and then on the other, try to undermine unions everywhere. That's going to be interesting, I think, in terms of the midterm elections and beyond that," he says.

Saporito joined Lake Effect's Mitch Teich by phone to discuss his recent op-ed on President Trump’s war with Harley-Davidson: