MOUNT PLEASANT — Unionized workers at CNH (Case New Holland) Industrial walked off the job May 2 after working the expiration of their six-year contract. Daily, strikers continue to make their presence known outside the former Case manufacturing plant where tractors are put together on Durand Avenue and Oakes Road in Mount Pleasant.
There’s no sign the strike could break anytime soon.
What would it take to end the strike?
“If they give us more money and treat us better,” Lynn Sanchez said. Added Larry Windmon: “At least 25 (dollars per hour).”
Others said that increased pay cannot be the only sticking point in negotiating, with reversing reduced benefits being a necessity too.
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“They’re trying to increase the hours … mandatory overtime, 12 hours. We have families,” said Ana Hernandez, who said she has worked at CNH for 12 years. “We have done a lot for them, but I feel they don’t do a lot for me … I’m doing all this for you, but what are you doing for me? They’re hiking up insurance costs. They’re taking vacation days.”
A number of things remain unclear to the public: how many new hires and union members have crossed the picket line, what they are being paid, what the exact offers CNH has made to the union are.
According to CNH, “dozens” of unionized employees “have decided it was in your best interest to return to work.”
Only a few dozen union members voted against the strike in the first place; when strike authorization was approved April 10, 1.6% of workers voted against it. Approximately 1,000 workers are now on strike in the Racine area and in the eastern Iowa community of Burlington.
Still, morale is not universally high and some picketers’ opinions have soured a little on their union — United Auto Workers — especially after, at the UAW annual convention last month, the union voted to increase weekly strike pay from $400 to $500 but then reversed the decision.
“I was kind of salty about that,” Windmon said.
Sanchez added: “I needed that $500, that $500 would have been good … We were all upset about that. Who wouldn’t have been?”
CNH has aimed to sow distrust in the union with strikers. On Aug. 7, the company took out a full-page advertisement in The Journal Times that served as an open letter to strikers. In it, the international manufacturing company said the following:
- “We presented a comprehensive offer to the UAW that included wage increases of 18.5% to 25% over three years.”
- Three new health care plans were offered.
- “A 401k plan with up to a 300% match.”
- One more paid holiday.
- “When we reach an agreement and the strike is over, we will welcome all of you back to work.”
CNH said that its most recent offer still had not received “a more detailed response” from the union. CNH claimed that UAW “has yet to share” its offer with its members and said that “the UAW should present” the offer to its members “for a vote.”
Strikers who spoke with a reporter disputed these claims. They said UAW is keeping them abreast of the negotiations and that they don’t believe the new offers are much of an improvement.
“We have meetings all the time where they inform us,” said one striker who declined to share her name. She added that the food pantries and food donated to the union have been enough to make ends meet.
Added Bruno Nwaogwugwu: “This is my first union experience. I cannot say they (UAW) aren’t doing good … but they should do better.”
CNH’s revenues are considerably up through all this. The company reported consolidated revenues of $6.082 billion and profits of more than $550 million in the second quarter of 2022, an increase of nearly 16% over the second quarter of 2021. Ag Equipment Intelligence, a trade journal, reported that CNH and UAW are expected to resume this month.
Nwaogwugwu said he has had offers for jobs paying more than the $20 per hour he was getting at CNH. “It’s not all about the money, but it is all about the money. Because: If you know how much you’re putting in, and how much is coming out — the profits — you sit and look at yourself, what am I getting from all this? … We aren’t asking much.”
Even if enthusiasm for the strike could be less fervent than it was three months ago, CNH failed to curry favor in the early days of the strike when it cut off health care coverage for those on strike. At the time, the Mount Pleasant union office, UAW Local 180, issued a statement saying “a multi-billion dollar company like CNH … would say they care about their employees’ well-being — well you know the old saying, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ This is the time for our community to speak out and confront CNH!!!”
During a 2019 strike, General Motors said it would cut off strikers’ health coverage but reversed the decision following community pushback. CNH has continued not providing health coverage to strikers, while UAW has said it is now providing coverage to strikers.
“They (CNH) might be saying they are offering a wage increase, but they are taking away in the backside,” picketer Rob Norris said.
Bernie Sanders rallies with striking workers in Mount Pleasant, in photos