STURTEVANT, Wis. — As negotiations are set to reopen between Case New Holland bosses and the United Auto Workers, whose members struck May 2, few on the union side of the table are ready to give in.
“We’re not going to take anything back to our membership that we don’t think meets their needs. That’s our starting point in these negotiations,” UAW Local 180 President Yasin Mahdi told the Militant July 31.
“The earnings reports that just came out say they are making a profit. But production is down and they’re not shipping product,” Mahdi said. “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re getting a lot of stuff sent back from the dealers because it wasn’t assembled properly in the first place.”
The 600 UAW Local 180 members here, and 430 members of UAW Local 807 in Burlington, Iowa, voted by over 98% to strike when their old contract ran out at the end of April.
Case New Holland is an international conglomerate that manufactures agricultural implements and earthmoving equipment. It’s the third largest producer of earthmoving equipment in the world behind Caterpillar and Komatsu.
Since New Holland bought Case in 1999, the bosses have been on a drive to trim their workforce and drive down wages and working conditions.
Morale among the strikers remains high. Workers on the picket lines here July 28 and two days later in Burlington told the Militant they were determined to win their demands.
“They’re paying the temps roughly what we proposed to get in wages. That tells me they’re trying to get rid of the union,” Richie Wallace, a welder in Burlington, said. Before the strike, “management told us if we weren’t union we could get the money we ‘deserve.’”
At another gate, Zach Clark said, “What worries me most is the insurance. The deductible they want will never get paid. The insurance will eat up any pay raise. No thanks,” he said.
Strikers told us about a union pantry that has been set up at the firehouse in Gulfport, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from Burlington. The wife of the mayor there is one of the strikers.
“The company imposed a two-tier wage structure years ago. If you do the same job, you should receive the same pay. Tiers divide the workforce. It creates animosity among workers,” said Karl Rogall, who’s worked at Case New Holland for 50 years.
“We need more vacation time to spend with our families,” Vivian Judson said. “Mandatory overtime is also an issue. The company wants us to work three Saturdays per month — we’re already forced to work two Saturdays per month.”
“The solidarity we have received has been tremendous and it really helps us keep going. It even comes from workers outside North America,” Mahdi said. “We recently received a message of solidarity from our sister plant in Basildon, England, where the corporate international headquarters is located.”
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.
Naomi Craine, Dean Hazlewood, and Leroy Watson contributed to this article.