Why CNH Workers Approved Deal to End Strike
United Auto Workers members at Case-New Holland Industrial’s Burlington factory received calls and texts Monday morning, ordering them back to work beginning next week.
The messages are one of the final steps to close a strike that lasted eight months, the longest-running major work stoppage in Iowa in 12 years. The union’s vote Saturday to end the strike capped a hostile standoff between the UAW and the Italian-owned implement manufacturer, a fight in which union leaders say they rejected dozens offers before even taking a contract to members.
How did the strike end? The latest proposal passed with 62% of the vote between the two groups on strike, UAW Local 807 at CNH’s Burlington plant and the larger UAW Local 180 at its plant in Racine, Wisconsin.
The outcome showed a significant shift in member sentiment from the previous contract vote Jan. 7, when only 45% of strikers approved a proposal from CNH. The swing over the last two weeks came even as multiple members said the actual offer from the company barely budged.
What changed workers’ minds? Multiple workers say they received letters from the company Jan. 17, informing them that managers would hire permanent replacements if the union didn’t vote to ratify an agreement by Jan. 23.
If a company hires permanent replacements, it doesn’t have to immediately re-hire every union member once the strike ends. The company merely has to place those workers on a striker recall list. The company then has to offer those workers jobs as positions become open.
Why did workers hold out for so long? Kim Alber, a paint line employee who has worked at CNH Industrial for 10 years, said many members had stuck with their opposition, despite what the company hyped as a 28% pay bump in its Jan. 7 offer, because it was offering a less generous health insurance plan to new hires.
“That’s a lot of money,” she said of CNH’s offer. “If you just looked at it that way, if you only only looked at the money part of it, that’s a good raise.”