the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
May 23, 2022
At noon on May 2, 1,000 UAW workers in three Wisconsin and Iowa plants went on strike against CNH Industrial. CNH workers make farm machinery like tractors and combines, and construction heavy equipment like backhoes and end-loaders.
The workers’ six-year contract expired, and the company decided to stonewall. In fact, CNH had contracted with a strikebreaking firm to bring in temporary workers the very next day at the Burlington, Iowa plant. After a few hours’ standoff with the picketers, the local sheriff enforced access to about 35 out-of-state vans loaded with temps. This action proved how much CNH lied in their official statement, when they said, “we will continue to negotiate in good faith.”
CNH ended 2021 with 33.4 billion dollars in revenue and a 21% increase in profit, 1.76 billion dollars. They are passing out 400 million dollars in dividends and buying back 100 million dollars in shares.
CNH has plants worldwide. It is part of the Agnelli family’s empire, through their holding company Exor, which also controls the newly named Stellantis auto manufacturing conglomerate. The Agnellis are Italy’s fourth wealthiest family.
A CNH worker said, “We didn’t ask for the world. Just give us what John Deere got.” The 10,000 John Deere workers struck for 34 days last October and November to win an initial 10% pay increase and a cost-of-living formula that will make up about half of their inflation losses. Meanwhile, the CNH workers’ pay is even $5 below local non-union manufacturing. It’s been six years since the workers’ last wage negotiations.
Workers also want the mandatory 12 hours rule changed, and the freedom to schedule their own vacations instead of being forced to take their vacation time at the company’s convenience.
Workers are supported by their community. A village near the Burlington, Iowa plant donated their fire station for a strike kitchen. Food donations began piling up immediately. Struggles with agricultural companies like Deere, Caterpillar, McCormick, Case and New Holland (now merged in CNH) have gone on for over a century in the upper Mississippi valley. Families work in these plants. Solidarity in a pinch is strong. A manufacturing engineer even resigned his job on the first day of the strike, rather than cross the picket line.
Much of the work building big machinery is skilled, specialized. CNH is using temp workers to threaten the strikers, but actual production is another story. A skilled welder said, “Without the parts I do, they can’t run that combine head.” Another from the paint shop said, “There are so many different ways that you have to know to hang that stuff to get it to go through the paint line and, quite honestly, there’s no managers down there now that I think know how to do it. That’s going to be rough for them.”
The CNH workers took the first step and decided to fight. They are up against a large international company backed by an immense family fortune. One local president said, “I have told my members to be ready to be out 3 to 6 months.”
But the strikers could have backing as well—the immense power of their fellow workers, who also need immediate wage adjustments, and immediate relief from punishing work schedules day in and day out.
The sooner this power gets put to work, the better for us all!