Labor Secretary Offers to Intervene in CNH Strike

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh is willing to help in the ongoing labor crisis between CNH Industrial and the United Auto Workers

The U.S. Secretary of Labor is willing to help end the strike between CNH Industrial and the United Auto Workers

Nearly 1,000 workers at plants in Racine, Wisconsin, and Burlington, Iowa, have been on strike since May 2, two days after the union's contract with the construction and agricultural machinery manufacturer expired. 

“Sometimes both companies and unions reach out to me,” Labor Secretary Martin Walsh told Radio Iowa. “That’s probably the best scenario when that happens because what I try to do is go and mediate the situation.”

Now in its sixth month, there is no clear end in sight as both sides appear firmly entrenched in their positions.

“We have not reached a tentative agreement, and no vote is scheduled,” said Richard Glowacki, chairman of Local 180 and president of the UAW CNH Council. “The status has been the same since we went out on May 2; the company is failing to address the membership’s demands.”

Walsh said he’s had cases where both sides have requested his presence to try to resolve a labor dispute and what he tries to do is get them to talk at the table and stay at the table.

“I mean, you can’t solve a strike if one side’s not sitting down and talking to you,” Walsh said.

The CNH strike started approximately seven months after a similar challenge by John Deere workers in October 2021 that lasted five weeks, concluding with employees receiving 10% raises and improved retirement benefits. According to union officials, the CNH strike is a challenge regarding wages, overtime, vacation and retirement benefits.

CNH brought in a temporary workforce within days of the strike to ensure the plants continued to operate. Union officials suggest the workforce had assembled before the contract deadline, possibly in anticipation of the strike being called. It has not been defined what sort of wages these workers are being paid.

Since the strike began, no formal vote has been taken on any offer presented to the union by UAW. The last formal 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. CNH described that offer as a significant financial boost from its original offer on May 1.

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The two sides returned to the bargaining table June 14 after U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., sent a letter to the company and visited the picket lines at the plants. However, union leaders said CNH showed little movement from its May 19 proposal, merely moving some of the money around to make it appear different from the previous proposal. 

Based on the content of the proposal, negotiations halted again with no future dates scheduled until the meetings that started on August 15 and continued the following week with little success. 

Glowacki categorized those talks as CNH leaving the union "breadcrumbs." He said CNH sought to unilaterally impose a new deadline, under which if no ratified agreement was reached, the company would revert to its last proposal.

"The union stated that the train had left the station on April 30, but since CNH had offered this window, we would seize the opportunity to try and reach a tentative agreement," Glowacki said. “There is no chance that we will be bringing the ‘breadcrumb’ proposal to a vote.”

Recent reports indicate more talks were held the week of Sept. 19 without success.