Deere & Co workers go on strike after rejecting contract

MOLINE, ILLINOIS (AP) – Over 10,000 Deere & Co workers went on strike yesterday after “the company failed to present an agreement that met our members’ demands and needs”, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union said in statement.

The union said its members would walk off the job if no deal has been reached by 11.59pm on Wednesday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have delivered five per cent raises to some workers and six per cent raises to others.

“The almost one million UAW retirees and active members who stand in solidarity with the striking UAW members at John Deere,” UAW President Ray Curry said.

Deere Vice President of Labour Relations Brad Morris said in a statement the company is “committed to a favourable outcome for our employees, our communities and everyone involved”. He said Deere wants an agreement that would improve the economic position of employees.

“We will keep working day and night to understand our employees’ priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running for the benefit of all those we serve,” Morris said.

Wheels are attached as workers assemble a tractor at John Deere’s Waterloo, Iowa assembly plant. PHOTO: AP

Thirty-five years have passed since the last major Deere strike, but workers were emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are facing worker shortages.

“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” UAW’s Agricultural Implement Department Vice President and Director Chuck Browning said. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”

Chris Laursen, who works as a painter at Deere, told the Des Moines Register before the strike that it could make a significant difference.

“The whole nation’s going to be watching us,” Laursen said to the newspaper. “If we take a stand here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it’s going to make a difference for the whole manufacturing industry. Let’s do it. Let’s not be intimidated.”

Earlier this year, another group of UAW-represented workers went on strike at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia and wound up with better pay and lower-cost health benefits after rejecting three tentative contract offers. The contracts under negotiation covered 14 Deere plants across the United States, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois and one each in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.

The contract talks at the Moline, Illinois-based company were unfolding as Deere is expecting to report record profits between USD5.7 billion and USD5.9 billion this year. The company has been reporting strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment this year.

The Deere production plants are an important contributors to the economy, so local officials hope any strike will be short-lived.

“We definitely want to see our economy stabilise and grow after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said to the Quad-Cities Times.

“Hopefully, these parties can come to a resolution soon.”