Negotiations are ongoing between the United Auto Workers and CNH Industrial – whose brands include Case and New Holland construction equipment – for its plants in Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin.
Representatives from both CNH Industrial and UAW declined to comment on the status of the negotiations. The current six-year labor agreement at both the Burlington (UAW Local 807) and Racine (UAW Local 180) facilities are set to expire at midnight April 30. The agreement covers about 1,100 hourly employees.
Negotiations on a new labor agreement at the two facilities began April 4, according to Rebecca Fabian, CNH Industrial North American communications manager. "We are optimistic that we will reach a fair, equitable and competitive agreement for our employees," she said.
According to recent Facebook posts and Farm Equipment, more than 95% of workers at both plants voted April 10 in favor of a strike authorization, six days after negotiations began. The vote does not call a strike but gives the union the ability to do so if deemed necessary.
“Strike authorizations are simply a part of the UAW bargaining process where local members vote on whether to allow a strike, if necessary,” says Brian Rothenberg, UAW International director of public relations. He further stated that UAW would not comment about bargaining at this time in the process.
Unions know they are in a good position to press for favorable changes in today's tight labor market and in the face of increasing demand. A strike at any company’s manufacturing facilities would likely exacerbate global supply chain problems.
The agriculture and construction industries learned this in October 2021 when John Deere faced a strike by 10,000 UAW workers. It was the first major strike for John Deere employees since 1986. Ultimately, what UAW had termed "minor modifications" in Deere & Company's third proposal apparently were enough to persuade the striking union members to accept the deal. After voting 61% to 39% in favor of ratification, union members began reporting to work, ending a five-week strike. The six-year agreement included an $8,500 signing bonus, 20% increase in wages over the lifetime of the contract with 10% of that increase occurring this year, a return to cost-of-living adjustments and three 3% lump-sum payments. Union members also received enhanced retirement options and additional bumps in Deere's incentive compensation plan.
At the time and since then, other OEMs have been paying close attention and likely are watching CNH’s negotiations after keeping close eye on the John Deere scenario. Other than CNH, the current Caterpillar/UAW contract reportedly runs out in 2023.
CNH Industrial represents one of the world’s largest manufacturers of agricultural and construction equipment under brand names such as Case, New Holland and STEYR.
Globally, more than 37,000 employees produce the various agriculture and construction machines associated with those core brands. Both facilities currently in negotiations have long histories of machinery production.
Much as Milwaukee is linked with Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Racine is identified with Case’s production of farm equipment. The history of tractor and farm equipment production at the facility dates to 1844. Currently, the Racine plant is primarily recognized for building the Case IH Magnum Series tractors.
Meanwhile, the Burlington facility has been manufacturing equipment since 1937. Earning a bronze status in the World Class Manufacturing program in 2019, the plant produces tractor loader backhoes, rough-terrain forklifts, and headers for Case IH and New Holland agriculture brands. Eight years ago, the plant under went a $24 million expansion to add production of the Case M Series dozers following the closure of Case's Calhoun, Georgia, facility in 2015.
However, in July 2021, according to The Hawk Eye newspaper, CNH Industrial was having ongoing discussions with the local UAW about moving its Case M Series dozer production from Burlington to an undisclosed location outside of the U.S.
Since that time, the plant continues to produce the Case dozers and no subsequent information has been released on any movement of that line. It is not clear if any further discussion of moving the line will be part of the current labor negotiations.