United Auto Workers union members on strike at two CNH Industrial plants were emboldened to continue their fight upon being visited on the picket line by U.S. senators this past weekend.
Despite a letter from senators led by Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and UAW increasing pay for striking workers, negotiations have once again stalled between the union and CNH, the manufacturer of Case and New Holland construction equipment.
Prior to the picket-line visits by Sanders and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., on Friday and Saturday respectively, talks among union leaders and CNH management had resumed in Madison, Wisconsin. The return to the bargaining table appeared to be CNH’s response to the letter from the senators urging fair and just negotiations.
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. CNH described that offer as a comprehensive offer that was a significant financial boost from its original offer on May 1.
Upon returning to the table on Tuesday, union leaders said CNH showed little movement from its May 19 proposal.
Richard Glowacki, chairman of Local 180 and president of the UAW CNH Council, said that when CNH returned with its proposal, it was little different than the one submitted on May 19. He said the new offer merely moved some of the money around to make it appear different from the previous offer.
“For lack of a better word, it was waste of time,” Glowacki said. Based on the content of the proposal, negotiations were ended with no future dates scheduled as of this time. He said UAW leaders canceled their hotel stays to save money, based on the lack of legitimacy of the company’s bargaining efforts at the time.
“I’m trying to bargain in good faith,” Glowacki said. “They thought this was a game.”
He describes the CNH’s proposal and additional actions during negotiations as a slap in the face to the membership.
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.
“We were critical workers and now we’re apparently expendable,” Glowacki said. He said dealers are turning down receipt of machines being made by the replacement workers at the two plants.
Now in its eighth 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 CNH strike comes on the heels of a similar challenge by John Deere workers in October 2021 that lasted five weeks, concluding with employees receiving 10% raises and improved retirement benefits.
Sanders managed to reinvigorate UAW members in both Racine and Burlington on Friday during his town hall visits. He drew impressive crowds at both locations while speaking about the significance of their fight on a national scale.
In Wisconsin, Sen. Baldwin was unable to attend during Sanders visit on Friday so instead walked the picket line at the Racine plant on Saturday.
During remarks at both sites, Sanders highlighted the concept of corporate greed that he noted is evidenced by unionization efforts going on across the country including against such companies as Starbucks and Amazon.
"What we are seeing not only with this company but companies all across this country is something unbelievable," Sanders said. "It is called the culture of greed, and all of us know folks who are suffering with addiction, whether it's drugs, alcohol, tobacco, people can't get rid of the addiction. These bastards are stuck with an addiction called greed. It never ends. They want more and more and more."
He applauded the UAW members for fighting to be treated as human beings and having time to spend with their families.
"The struggle you are engaged in is the struggle of our moment, the struggle of our time,” Sanders said. “And that is whether we stand up to this outrageous level of greed and selfishness and say to these companies that the time is long overdue that you can't have it all. You can't crush people. You can't crush families. People who have worked for you have made you huge amounts of money. You've got to treat them with respect and dignity."
He criticized CNH management and its European owners for paying CNH Industrial CEO Scott Wine a $9.2 million signing bonus and millions more in annual compensation. In addition, he described the use of replacement workers as “disgraceful.”
"Today, we say to the CEO of CNH, 'Enough with the intimidation, enough with the coercion, enough with the lies, enough with the greed,'" Sanders said. "Enough is enough."
CNH offered no response to inquiries about the status of negotiations or Sanders' visit to the two plants.