STURTEVANT, Wis. — “Your job shouldn’t be your whole life,” Mario Palacios told the Militant as he walked the picket line outside the Case New Holland plant in this suburb of Racine May 10. “The last thing you want to do is tear families apart.”
Palacios has worked at Case for 25 years, building tractors and industrial equipment. He and the other members of United Auto Workers Local 180 have been on strike since May 2. They’re demanding pay raises to keep up with inflation and schedules that allow workers to spend time with their families.
Members of UAW Local 807 at the Case plant in Burlington, Iowa, are also part of the strike, bringing the total to over 1,000 workers at the two locations.
Chris Steward, with four years at the Burlington plant, told the local Hawk Eye, “We’d like to be able to plan a family vacation for when it’s convenient for us, when it’s convenient for our family, not around the company’s time.” Workers with less than five years seniority get just one week of vacation per year, which they’re required to take during the plant’s summer shutdown.
Steward’s wife, Ashley Lee, who also works at Case, said they need raises. “We want to be able to support a family, not live week to week,” said Lee, a mother of two.
Workers at both plants also object to forced overtime and irregular schedules.
The company has been bringing in vanloads of scabs to both plants, trying to continue production. Strikers in Wisconsin held a rally at the union hall May 9, one week into the walkout, followed by mass picketing by over 100 workers at the plant
UAW members at Case struck for nearly three weeks in 2004, and the company responded with a lockout lasting four months.
On the picket line here in Wisconsin, Palacios recalled that fight. “The company built up inventory, and locked us out when they were ready,” he said. “This time we didn’t leave them a lot of finished tractors.”
The strikers welcome visits to their picket line and donations of supplies to the two union halls.