STURTEVANT, Wis. — “I’m not going to get my hopes up, but negotiations are scheduled to resume the week of Aug. 14,” United Auto Workers Local 807 President Nick Guernsey told the Militant by phone July 24.
More than 1,000 members of the union walked off the job May 2 at two Case New Holland plants — 430 members of UAW Local 807 in Burlington, Iowa, and 600 Local 180 members here. The heart of the fight is their demand for higher wages to counter soaring prices.
“Hopefully, they are ready to move. One sign that they may not be is their decision to change scab herding companies,” he added. “If they were ready to concede, they wouldn’t bother. Either way we are ready for them.”
Some 200 miles south of Burlington 2,500 members of International Association of Machinists Local 837 at three Boeing aircraft factories near St. Louis overwhelmingly voted July 24 to strike beginning Aug. 1.
Many of the issues in the two disputes are similar, especially the determination by bosses at both companies to cut payments for workers’ pensions.
“Every union in the country right now is poised to do the same thing we’re doing,” said Guernsey. “We all recognize that now is the time to fight to win back some of the concessions we’ve been forced to make over the last decades.”
“I’m the lowest seniority employee of this company that will receive a defined benefit pension,” Dan Weise, a tool maker who has worked 25 years at the Case New Holland plant in Sturtevant, told this Militant worker-correspondent on the picket line July 21. “After me everyone else gets a 401(k). And the company keeps trying to reduce their contributions.
“Management has a bad attitude. They talk at you but don’t want to listen,” he said. “If you suggest doing something different their response is, ‘Do it my way.’ Then if you ‘do it’ their way and it screws up, they want to blame you.
“And if they do finally listen, after things have gone awry, they don’t make the necessary changes to keep the same crap from happening again.
“I could retire now if I wanted to. But I’m out here to fight for those guys,” he said, pointing to the young men and women on the picket line.
Two of the young workers were Jackie Vasquez, 20, who has worked at the plant for six months, and Vaya Hill, 22, who’s got two months in at the plant.
“I was pretty new when the strike began. But I came out because I wanted to stand with my co-workers,” said Vasquez, who works delivering parts to the assembly lines and unloading trucks. “I plan on keeping this job. And I could use the pay increase the union is fighting for.”
“We need a pay increase to keep up with rising prices,” said Hill, a single mother of two. “This job can be a steppingstone to get me to where I need to be to support myself and my family. That’s why I came out. You have to choose which side you’re on.”
Help get the word out about the strike and win solidarity! Contributions and messages of support can be sent to UAW Local 180, 3323 Kearney Ave., Mount Pleasant, WI 53403, and UAW Local 807, 9313 Koestner St., Burlington, IA 52601.