By JOSH FUNK
AP Business Writer
A group of U.S. senators led by Vermont independent Bernie Sanders is lending its support to workers at two CNH Industrial plants who have been on strike for better pay and benefits for more than a month.
The group, which was also led by Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and includes three other Democrats, has written a letter to CNH CEO Scott Wine urging him to offer the more than 1,000 striking workers a better deal. Sanders plans to attend rallies with the strikers next week.
The group said workers at the plants that make construction and agriculture equipment shouldn’t have to accept the drastically higher health care costs and modest raises the company is offering now, especially when the company reported a $336 million profit in the first quarter.
The senators said the lowest-paid workers at the plants in Racine, Wisconsin, and Burlington, Iowa, would receive raises of $1.33 an hour, which they say wouldn’t cover the $6,400 health insurance deductible CNH Industrial has proposed.
“If CNH can afford to provide you with a $9.2 million signing bonus and nearly $22 million in total compensation for one year of work — nearly 8,000 times the raise you are offering some workers — it can afford to pay all of your workers better wages and better benefits,” the senators wrote to Wine. “If CNH can afford to spend over $100 million on stock buybacks over a six-month period to enrich its wealthy shareholders, it can afford to treat all of its workers with the dignity and the respect that they deserve.”
Officials with the company, which is based in the United Kingdom, didn’t respond Wednesday to questions about the strike, but previously they have said they were committed to resolving the contract dispute through the bargaining process. CNH Industrial has more than 37,000 employees total.
Sanders, who has been working with unions across the country over the past year to support workers during a spate of high-profile strikes, plans to visit Wisconsin and Iowa on June 17 to attend town hall rallies with the striking CNH workers. The former presidential candidate previously unsuccessfully urged Warren Buffett to intervene in a strike at one of the companies his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate owns. He also rallied with striking Kellogg’s cereal plant workers last year before they agreed to a new contract.
About 10,000 UAW members who work for Deere & Co. secured 10% raises and improved benefits after they went on strike for a month last fall. So far the CNH workers haven’t been able to achieve similar results. The ongoing worker shortages have prompted many unions to press for better wages and benefits after keeping plants operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal and Sherrod Brown.