Union Disregards CNH Offers to End Strike as “Breadcrumbs”

United Auto Workers union officials say there has been little movement in the negotiation process to resolve the five-month-old strike at two CNH Industrial plants.

The past two weeks have been the longest period of negotiation since the strike began. Richard Glowacki, chairman of Local 180 and president of the UAW CNH Council, categorized the most recent 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 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.”

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. The CNH strike started 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.The CNH strike is a challenge about wages, overtime, vacation and retirement benefits.

Burlington UAW Local 807 President Nick Guernsey told The Hawk Eye newspaper that the starting hourly wage for assemblers at the Burlington plant was $20.89 per hour. He said the wage is approximately $1.24 less per hour than the starting wage for the lowest-level unionized John Deere employees, according to the contract UAW members approved in November. It also reportedly $5.50 per hour less than what assemblers at the company’s non-union plants are paid.

CNH brought in a temporary workforce within days of the strike to ensure the plants continued to operate. The workforce appears to have been assembled prior to the contract deadline, possibly in anticipation of the strike being called. It is not clear what wages these workers are being paid.

Now in its 19th week, no formal vote has been taken on any offer presented by CNH since the strike began. 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.

Both 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 August 15 and continued the following week with little success.

“CNH has decided to ignore their employees’ demands and to sincerely bargain in good faith,” Glowacki said. “The UAW has consistently stated we are ready to negotiate and continue to meet and state our rationale for the proposals demanded by the membership, and unfortunately, Brian French (CNH North America vice president of human resources) and his superiors have chosen to ignore the workforce that has had a very large part in making the billions of profits they have enjoyed over the last six-year agreement.”

He said the UAW/CNH Council is ready and willing to continue negotiating with CNH.

“We will continue to hold the line and negotiate on behalf of the memberships at both locals until a fair agreement can be brought back to the membership for a vote,” Glowacki said.