United Auto Workers members on strike at two CNH Industrial plants declined to bring the company’s latest offer to a vote.
Union representatives from the Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin, plants met last week in Madison, Wisconsin, with leadership of the manufacturer of Case and New Holland construction equipment at the bargaining table. It was the first time both sides had reportedly met at length since the strike began on May 2, about two months after negotiations began and two days after the previous contract had expired.
During the first round of negotiations, CNH and UAW were apparently not close regarding the economic terms of a new labor agreement. Through the strike, the UAW workers are looking for increased wages, more flexibility on time off, reduced overtime and a safe work environment.
UAW Vice President Chuck Browning said CNH’s latest proposal fell short of the members’ bargaining agenda and as a result was not put up for a vote.
“Our bargainers are meeting with our members and communicating the areas of concern that remain unresolved,” he said. “I understand the company’s frustration that their bargaining strategy to force an inadequate contract down our members' throats remains ineffective.”
Offering no specific comment, Rebecca Fabian, CNH Industrial spokesperson, released a company statement on the status of the strike after negotiations seemed to have slowed yet again following a rejection of what she called the company’s final offer. The two sides reportedly met multiple times on Tuesday, May 17 and Wednesday, May 18.
"Unfortunately, the union declined to meet or allow the company to present and explain its position and proposal and indicated that they would not allow their members to see the proposal," the statement reads. “The union then left and discontinued bargaining. While the union indicated that they were ready to resume the negotiations at the beginning of the week, we were very disappointed in their decision to walk away.”
The CNH statement says the company is proud of what it describes as a comprehensive offer made to the union on May 19 that addressed all open and outstanding issues. According to the company, the terms of this final offer included significant economic improvements for employees over the previous proposal on May 1.
“We hope that the union shares the terms of the company’s final offer with its members,” CNH states. “After being on strike for more than three weeks, the CNH Industrial employees deserve to know what the company has offered.”
Based on the company’s statement, Browning noted that the company seems equally disappointed in the determination of UAW negotiators as is the UAW with the content of the proposal.
Burlington UAW Local 807 President Nick Guernsey told The Hawk Eye newspaper that the proposal included a raise of 8.5%, averaging out to 6% over three years. The insurance package raised employee contributions and deductibles, which he suggested would lead members to lose money on the insurance side if the offer was accepted.
According to Guernsey, a new assembler would be making just $30 more a week than they would now, which, he noted, wouldn’t even currently pay for a tank of gas.
In addition to the general numbers, the proposal was only for a three-year agreement, instead of the more traditional six-year contract. Guernsey told the Hawk Eye that the offer also included no language preventing shutdowns and a minimum headcount, both of which had been in the contract that expired April 30. The union’s desire to reduce overtime shifts from 12 to 11 hours was seemingly not even addressed in the final offer.
He further stated that the company appeared more receptive about the union’s desire to be able to take vacation at time beyond the summer shutdown.
Browning noted that CNH Industrial knows it is obligated to continue bargaining, regardless of labeling the May 19 proposal a final offer.
“Their most recent statement is merely an effort to avoid sincere bargaining with the hopes of getting members to cross the picket lines or accept an inadequate contract, to which neither will transpire,” he said. “The only path to ending this labor dispute is through reaching a fair agreement that is ratified by our UAW membership. The UAW remains committed to reach that end.”
Now in its fourth week, the strike resembles the John Deere walkout in October 2021. That strike concluded with the employees receiving 10% raises and improved retirement benefits.
Browning says CNH entered negotiations with a predetermined bargaining strategy based on the principles of fear and intimidation.
Once the strike began, CNH hired a temporary workforce to allow work at the plants to be maintained. According to Browning, it appeared the workforce had been assembled prior to the contract deadline in anticipation of a strike based on the company’s position at the bargaining table.
As of May 14, health care benefits for the union members transitioned from being provided by CNH to being provided by UAW. Coverage under UAW only encompasses medical costs and prescription drugs but not dental or vision.
In addition to health coverage, the union members receive $275 per week in strike payments if they are actively participating in the strike.
Brown believes it is the company’s intention to starve out UAW members on the picket lines to accept an inadequate collective bargaining agreement.
“Unfortunately for CNH Industrial, our members have displayed great support and solidarity for their issues and negotiating team throughout the bargaining process,” Brown said.
Collections are currently being held by UAW local unions across the country to help support the striking workers.
“I could not be prouder of our striking members at CNH for refusing to be pushed around by a profitable corporate giant that has chosen to spend their money resisting a fair agreement instead of providing one to their loyal employees,” Browning said.