CNH Industrial and the United Auto Workers union members on strike at plants in Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin, are returning to the bargaining table this week in Madison, Wisconsin.
Talks are resuming after UAW increased pay for striking workers last week to $400 per week and days after a group of U.S. senators, led by Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., sent a letter to CNH urging the company to negotiate a fair and just contract.
The letter to the construction and agriculture equipment manufacturer’s CEO, Scott Wine, was also signed by former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Sanders, who has been working with and supportive of union issues across the country, is scheduled to visit both Iowa and Wisconsin on Friday to host town hall meetings with the striking workers.
The strike began May 2, two days after the union's contract with CNH expired. Through the strike, the UAW workers are looking for increased wages, more flexibility on time off and reduced overtime.
Within days of the strike, CNH hired a temporary workforce to continue operating the plants. However, 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.
Now in its seventh week, it appears both sides are entrenched in their positions, with the UAW firmly supporting its workers via strike pay and health insurance, after the company removed health benefits for the union members on strike.
The last offer presented by CNH on May 19 was rejected by UAW with no vote being taken because the offer fell far short of the members’ bargaining agenda.
Based on discussions with union members, the senators said in their letter that the May19 proposal offered the lowest-paid workers an average annual raise of $1.33 per hour, which ends up being a pay cut based on the $6,400 health insurance deductible also included in the offer.
“CNH is not a poor company. It is not going broke. Last year, CNH made over $1.7 billion in profits,” the senators wrote. “If CNH can afford to provide you with a $9.2 million signing bonus and nearly $22 million in total compensation for one year of work – nearly 8,000 times the raise you are offering some workers – it can afford to pay all its workers better wages and better benefits. If CNH can afford to spend over $100 million on stock buybacks over a six-month period to enrich its wealthy shareholders, it can afford to treat all its workers with the dignity and the respect that they deserve.”
The senators note that the UAW members are regularly working 12-hour days, 60-hour weeks, including up to 17 hours of forced overtime. In addition, they told Wine that it was unacceptable for CNH to cut the contract from three years to six and gut job security provisions and increase the “union busting efforts” of bringing in replacement workers and taking away health care benefits.
CNH has not responded to requests for comment on the senators’ letter or status of the bargaining process.
CNH has called on the UAW to present its previous rejected 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.