Burlington Case Workers Still On Strike After Nearly 3 Months

After nearly three months of a union strike in southeast Iowa, workers say there’s no sign of an agreement in sight.

More than 1,000 unionized workers at CNH Industrial (CNHi) in Burlington, Iowa, and Racine, Wisconsin—where they manufacture Case and New Holland agricultural products—began striking at noon on May 2. Burlington has around 440 of those workers.

The union and CNHi failed to reach an agreement on multiple occasions. They aren’t scheduled to meet again until mid-August, said United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 807 President Nick Guernsey, who was on strike from the Burlington plant. He said he wasn’t optimistic about that meeting, either.

“They haven’t acted like they wanted to get a deal done the last three or four times we’ve met,” he said. “I’m not really sure if they want to get a deal done at all.”

Company officials did not return a message seeking comment.

Last year, CNHi announced it would move some production out of Burlington—where it has operated since 1937—and the US entirely. The company has hired nonunion workers to fill positions, paying them in some cases even more than union workers, Guernsey said.

But the company is also likely feeling pressure from several sides: Stock prices went from $14.43 per share on the first day of the strike and bottomed out at $10.77 on July 14. They’re now between $11 and $12 per share, a more than 20% decline in the past six months.

Guernsey said new or fewer employees were also affecting quality.

“Dealers are not real happy with the product they’re getting,” Guernsey said. “They’re screaming we need to end this.”

By contrast, UAW upped its strike pay two months ago from $250 per week to $400 for all members. It also removed a provision that workers collecting unemployment could not also collect strike pay.

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

Former presidential candidate and US Sen. Bernie Sanders also visited the strike in Burlington, boosting members’ morale.

The strike started one day before CNH Industrial reported its first-quarter earnings. Consolidated revenue was $4.6 billion in the first four months of 2022, a more than 13% increase over the prior year, while net income for the company was $336 million. The company’s second-quarter earnings report was due out Friday.

Guernsey said workers want wages that keep up with inflation, parity on wages with nonunion plants, better retirement plans and a more consistent time-off policy.

By late May, however, when negotiations between the company and workers first stalled, Guernsey claimed the company only offered a 0.5% increase in wages from its initial offer—so paltry he didn’t even bother to put that to his members for a vote.

“I can tell you, with astounding confidence that it was not only a ‘no,’ but there (were) some colorful statements behind that word ‘no,'” Guernsey told KWQC.

 

By Amie Rivers
7/27/22

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