At CNH, Dreams of Steady Employment Now ‘a Fairy Tale’

Apr. 24, 2024 3p

(WPR)---A year after workers won wage increases through a lengthy strike, the corporate owners of a 180-year-old farm equipment manufacturer in Racine County are laying off staff and shifting work to Mexico.

The Case tractor factory in Mount Pleasant has cut about a third of its workforce. The United Auto Workers local that represents workers there has been informed more cuts are coming.

“It’s really sad to see because Case used to be one of the premier employers in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Rich Glowacki, chair of the bargaining committee for UAW Local 180. “Most people, when they got hired at Case, pretty much said that their life was going to be on a better trajectory. Now, that’s all a fairy tale.”

The job cuts are part of the company’s broader plan to move jobs to Mexico as a cost-savings move that comes after recent stock buybacks and strong corporate profits.

In February and March, workers at the CNH Industrial plant in Mount Pleasant began hearing rumblings of a “rebalance” that would reduce the production line in response to “market conditions,” Glowacki said.

That “rebalance” took effect on April 1, placing roughly 220 of the plant’s roughly 660 workers on an “indefinite layoff.”

The layoffs come a little more than a year after CNH and the union agreed to a new contract that provided wage increases, shift premium increases and classification upgrades. The agreement ended a months-long strike that lasted from May 2022 to January 2023.

Glowacki said the company has informed the local UAW that it plans to continue cutting staff at the Racine County plant, aiming to bring the workforce there down to roughly 170 employees by 2026. He said the cuts feel like retaliation for the strike and that workers returned to a hostile work environment.

Affected workers could be called back by the company if they’re on layoff for less time than they were with the company. But many of those who lost their jobs had little seniority.

“There are some people that would have considerable recall rights, they got three or four years, but a lot of them were new hires,” Glowacki said.

An attendee holds a sign that says "Solidarity with UAW Local 180" among other rally attendees.

People attend a rally for striking workers Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the United Autoworkers hall in Racine, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

CNH Industrial has not yet responded to multiple requests for comment.

Glowacki said the layoffs will have a broad impact.

“It’s going to hurt the community just as much as it’s going to hurt my membership,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to matter to corporations how much they hurt whoever they hurt, as long as their bottom line is big and fat.”


Case has such a long history in Racine County that one of the area’s largest high schools is named for company founder Jerome I. Case. The high school’s mascot is an eagle similar to the tractor’s emblem.

Officials react to the layoffs

Mike Rosenbaum, president of the village of Sturtevant in Racine County, said in an email the impact of the layoffs will extend beyond municipal boundaries.

“Anytime a company lays off, it’s a huge loss to our community,” he said. “We middle class families are struggling as it is with the cost of everything, and now families are having to deal with one or more members of the family losing a job.”

Rosenbaum was critical of political leaders’ responses.

“If our leaders at the top cared about us, we would see them here talking with the (Case) executives,” he said.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Workforce Development said the agency still had not received a layoff notice from CNH as of Tuesday. The spokesperson said the Southeastern Wisconsin Workforce Development Board has contacted local officials, reached out to CNH and is working to connect affected employees with resources.

The spokesperson said DWD has received a complaint that could trigger an investigation into possible violations of state business closing and layoff laws.

The layoffs prompted U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin last week to send a letter to Scott Wine, the chief executive officer of CNH who is stepping down this summer.

In the letter, Baldwin urged Wine to abandon plans to move production to Mexico.

She called the plan a “slap in the face” to both workers and the company’s history of building agricultural equipment in Racine County, which predates Wisconsin becoming a state.

“Despite delivering record profits for your company, your workers in Racine are being told their services are too expensive and are no longer welcome,” Baldwin wrote to Wine. “An average worker at your Racine plant earns $52,000 annually. Last year, you made nearly 350 times that, $18 million. In 2022, you made $22 million and in 2021 you made $44 million.”

Baldwin also said the company spent $652 million on stock buybacks last year, four times more than the $150 million the company hopes to save through workforce reductions.

“While I am disappointed by your recent leadership of CNH, there is still time to reverse course,” Baldwin wrote. “I encourage you to re-commit to your American workforce, particularly the workers in Racine who have delivered your company its record profits.”

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2024, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.