UAW workers in Iowa, Wisconsin strike for higher pay as prices rise

By John Hawkins
May 23, 2022

STURTEVANT, Wis. — More than 1,000 members of the United Auto Workers walked off the job May 2 at two Case New Holland plants. The 430 members of UAW Local 807 in Burlington, Iowa, and 600 Local 180 members here, voted by over 98% to strike if they didn’t have an acceptable agreement when their old contract ran out April 30. The heart of the fight is their demand for higher wages as prices soar.

“I’m ready to stay out for as long as it takes. Everyone I know says we are fighting for what we deserve,” said 20-year-old assembler Hayle Brauer, who has worked at the Wisconsin plant for four months.

“The most important issues for me are a pay increase and time off,” she continued. “We’re working 53 hours a week, five nine-hour days and eight on Saturday with one Saturday off a month. Plus you have to work years to get vacation.

“The company was prepared for this. No sooner did we walk out than they started walking scabs in.”

Case New Holland Industrial is an Italian international conglomerate headquartered in London. The two plants manufacture Case tractors and industrial and earthmoving equipment. With farm production growing and increased construction projects from federal government infrastructure spending, the company reported a $1.76 billion profit in 2021.

“June 8 will be one year for me,” said 19-year-old Adrien Richmond. “This is my first factory job. Before that I worked at McDonald’s and Walmart.

“A big issue for me is safety. They’re hiring a lot of young workers and trying to take advantage of our lack of knowledge,” he said. “One shift I got covered with oil. The foreman didn’t tell me that I had the right to leave for an hour to go home and change clothes. Another time I was assigned to run a CNC machine with no training.”

“We’re getting a lot of support from the community. People driving by honk to show their support,” said Heather Mayle, a logistics worker, who has worked at the plant here for seven months.

“You start at a little over $18 per hour and it takes six years to get up to scale. Compare that to what they’re paying the scabs — $36 an hour plus room and board.”