By ERNIE GOTTA
Two weeks ago, United Auto Worker (UAW) union members of Local 180 and Local 807 rejected for a second time an offer from CNH Industrial, instead deciding to continue an eight-month-long strike. The second offer—which CNH said was their “last, final, and best” offer—gave wage increases of between 28% to 38% over four years.
The company, disappointed by the rejection, made their strike-breaking intentions clear in a recent statement, “While we await the union’s next step, CNH Industrial remains committed to honoring and meeting the needs and demands of our customers and, therefore, we will continue operations at both our Burlington and Racine sites.”
About 1000 workers covered under the UAW contract at CNH are picketing factories in Racine, Wis., and Burlington, Iowa. The strike centers around wages and health-care costs against the backdrop of the rising cost of living due to inflation. The initial offer rejected by the bargaining unit was for 18.5% wage increases spread out over a three-year contract. Workers have been adamant that the raises would not even cover the staggering $6,400 deductible of the company’s health-care plan.
CNH Industrial is a global manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment based in Britain. Despite the company’s positioning for a recession, it has been profitable, posting $336 million in profits in the first quarter of 2022. According to CEO Scott Wine, “Pricing, volumes, and favorable mix offset significant cost escalation and gross profit increased $174 million year over year.”
The Associated Press (AP) also reports, “CNH Industrial … has more than 37,000 employees worldwide. In its most recent earnings report, CNH reported a profit of $559 million in the third quarter. That’s up nearly 22% from the previous year’s $460 million net income as it increased the prices of its tractors, backhoes and other equipment.”
Despite workers’ rejection of two contract offers, embattled UAW head Ray Curry has expressed to the media that he feels a deal will be agreed on within a week or two. On Jan. 19, Curry told the Associated Press, “We believe that there is going to be an offer that’s there that the membership will see in a different light, with adjustments, not the same offer.”
Curry, who is facing a union election runoff against reformer Shawn Fain, finds himself in a difficult situation. A third offer rejected by membership would highlight the inability of the current leadership to win a fair contract by leveraging the membership’s commitment to maintain the strike.
In a report on Wisconsin Public Radio, Terri Sexton, a union member in Local 180 who has worked at CNH’s Racine facility for 11 years, made clear, “I’m not giving up. My union’s not giving up. I’m not giving up on my union,” she said. “[I] never thought that this would be the way that Case would treat their employees that make them literally billions of dollars every single year, and then come to work and do a quality job for them.”
We encourage readers in the area to get out and support the picket lines. A GoFundme for the members of UAW Local 807 has already raised nearly $12,000, and you can donate here. Donations can also be made to UAW Local 180 through the Wisconsin Bail out the People movement by writing a check payable to Labor Community @ Work and send to MALC, 633 S. Hawley Rd., Suite 110, Milwaukee, WI 53214. Readers in the area can also drop off the same address by Jan. 27, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 28, 9 a.m. to noon with food or financial donations.