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CNH Industrial counters union worker strike with new hardball tactic

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Tensions between CNH Industrial — the parent company of Case IH and New Holland tractor manufacturers — and the more than 1,000 employees on strike have risen in the week since the strike began. United Auto Workers Local 180 said in a post on social media over the weekend that CNH has notified the UAW that it will be canceling health insurance to all its members starting this coming Friday. The threat of such action — which has been used before by companies such as General Motors during a strike — is likely intended to be a hardball negotiating tactic, with the expectation that such a move is so impactful that striking workers will cave. 

The threat came just a day after NewsDakota.com reported that UAW leadership expected the strike to last three to six months.

“I think what’s going to get CNH back to the table is when they start losing money,” says Local 807 President Nick Guernsey. “They’ll probably start feeling that at four weeks.”

Union members at CNH Industrial locations in Racine, Wisconsin, and Burlington, Iowa, have said they are on strike for improved standard of living, retirement benefits, and a better work environment.

“Our members are working in solidarity and ready to hold out and fight for a contract they believe meets their needs,” said Ron McInroy, director of the UAW’s Region 4. “Our members and their families appreciate the community support they have already gotten. Strikes are never easy, but the fight for better working conditions at work is worth it.”

UAW President Ray Curry said the almost 1 million UAW retirees and active members stand in solidarity with the striking workers at CNH Industrial.

This is the second major strike to happen in the tractor and farm machinery industry in the past year. Last fall, more than 10,000 UAW workers at several John Deere & Co. facilities went on strike over wage increases as well as health-care and retirement benefits. That strike lasted five weeks before a new six-year contract was finalized and approved.

But what is different with the CNH Industrial strike versus the John Deere one is the media coverage — this strike is getting noticeably less coverage nationwide, and reports point to fewer official correspondences from the UAW — both internally and externally. 

Labor-advocacy outlet WSWS.org noted that UAW International is “deliberately keeping its hundreds of thousands of members in the dark about it.” The outlet also said that the UAW has “provided essentially no concrete details about what UAW officials are supposedly demanding from the company, nor what the company is countering with. The silence can only mean that the union is preparing a settlement which would utterly fail to meet workers’ demands for the restoration of wage and benefit concessions the UAW previously imposed in 2004, 2010, and 2016.”

For its part, CNH has not said too much about the strike but did release this statement: “CNH Industrial is disappointed that the parties were unable to reach an agreement and that the UAW has decided to call a strike. We recognize the Union’s decision creates high anxiety among our represented employees in Burlington and Racine, as well as our other employees, our customers, and our community. We remain committed to reaching an agreement, and we are working to resolve this issue. We will continue to negotiate in good faith and trust that the Union will do the same.”

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