Union Raises Strike Pay for CNH Workers as Picket Enters 6th Week

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United Auto Workers members on strike at two CNH Industrial plants will be receiving an increased weekly "strike pay.” 

The union members on strike at the Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin, plants of the Case and New Holland construction equipment manufacturer were receiving $275 per week in strike payments if they were actively participating in the strike.

The UAW International Executive Board recently voted to increase the weekly strike pay to $400 per week. 

“UAW members who strike are fighting to hold their employers accountable,” said Ray Curry, UAW president. “Our striking members and their families deserve our solidarity, and this increased benefit will help them hold the line.”

In addition, the UAW eliminated a provision that a member may not receive UAW strike benefits if the member received unemployment benefits.

A group of U.S. senators led by Sen. Bernie Sanders on May 9 also called on CNH to increase its offer, citing the company's $336 million profit in this year's first quarter, according to The Associated Press.

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, not dental or vision.

The strike began May 2, two days after the union's contract with CNH expired. Now in its sixth week, it appears both sides are entrenched in their positions.

Once the strike began, CNH hired a temporary workforce to continue operating the plants. According to UAW officials, it appears 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.

UAW officials said they believe CNH entered negotiations with a predetermined bargaining strategy based on the principles of fear and intimidation. The expectation is that the company’s intention is to literally starve out the UAW members on the picket lines to accept a new bargaining agreement.

The strike pay increase was an overall increase for UAW striking employees, but it may also have been a direct reflection to specifically help the CNH workers continue their stand against their employer.

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The UAW members declined to bring the company’s latest offer to a vote.

CNH has called on the UAW to present its offer to the membership for a vote and said it was a comprehensive offer that addressed all of the union's issues. It added that the offer was a significant financial boost from its previous offer May 1.

As with the first round, CNH and UAW are 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 and reduced overtime. While the last offer included a proposed increase, it was subsequently reduced with a nearly identical increase in health insurance coverage. In addition, while there appeared to have been some compromise on the time-off hours, there was no language in the proposed agreement to prevent shutdowns and a minimum headcount, similar to the previous contract. Also, the union’s desire to reduce overtime shifts from 12 to 11 hours was seemingly not addressed and it was presented as a three-year agreement rather than the traditional six-year term.