RACINE, Wis. — Workers striking at the CNH plant in Racine will lose their company health care benefits come Friday.
CNH says the union will take over health care coverage for striking employees. It was negotiated before the strike happened. However, the news did not sit well with employees on the picket line.
"If you take our insurance, how is the bargaining in good faith? We are out here because this is the only way we can fight, this is the only way we can get the attention of the people who can give us better wages and benefits,” said Robert Starks who has worked for CNH for 26 years.
Starks says he is a proud member of United Auto Workers Local 180.
Currently, the number of workers who are in a union in the country is down by more than 10 percent. According to the US Department of Labor, the number of workers in a union fell by 241,000 last year. What is on the rise, however, is how the country feels about unions.
"We're near historic, at least in my lifetime, record highs in terms of union approval in the country,” said Michael Childers, a professor for the department of labor education at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A Gallup poll shows 68 percent of Americans approve of labor unions. That's the highest approval rating since 1965.
Childers says he sees more unionization efforts popping up since the pandemic.
"I think workers, as they see other workers having success and doing this, also sparks their interest. Whether it's the Colectivo workers, leading to the Starbucks workers or maybe in this case, the activity of the John Deere workers now spilling over to the Case IH,” said Childers.
John Deere workers' recent strike resulted in a 10 percent raise.
"The biggest contributing factor is people don't feel appreciated in the workplace,” said Yasin Mahdi, president of UAW Local 180.
Mahdi said as CNH workers strike here in Racine, it has already had someone calling in to ask about unionizing.
"Somebody did reach out to get organized, so I will be following up with that today to see what we can do,” said Mahdi.
CNH released the following statement in response to strikers losing their health care benefits:
“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.
Before the strike started on May 2, 2022, representatives for CNH Industrial and the UAW spoke about how to handle healthcare coverage of striking employees during the strike. As a result of that discussion, both parties agreed that the provision of healthcare benefits would transition from being provided by CNH Industrial to being provided by the UAW. This transition will occur on May 14, 2022, resulting in no gap in coverage for striking employees.”