Seth Perlman / AP
More than 10,000 workers at 14 different John Deere sites went on strike at the stroke of midnight after the United Auto Workers union said it was unable to secure a new contract with the tractor company .
“Our John Deere members are on strike so they can earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish a level playing field,” Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the UAW’s agricultural tools department, noted in a report.
John Deere, known for its iconic green and yellow farm equipment, said it was committed to achieving a “favorable” outcome for everyone involved, including the workers.
“We are committed to reaching a deal with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest paid employees in agriculture and construction,” Brad Morris, vice president labor relations at Deere & Company, noted in a report.
“We will continue to work day and night to understand our employees’ priorities and resolve this strike, while keeping our operations ongoing for the benefit of all we serve,” he added.
The company had no estimate of when workers would return to work or how the strike would affect its operations.
Union actions take place in the United States
The strike at John Deere is the latest in a wave of recent union action that has grown to such an extent that some have dubbed it “Striketober”.
About 1,400 workers at all of Kellogg’s grain plants left work earlier this month after being at a standstill with the company over a new collective agreement for more than a year.
Other strikes could loom on the horizon. About 60,000 film and television workers along with the union International Alliance of Theater Employees voted to authorize a strike against the studios to improve their hours, wages and working conditions. Kaiser Permanente nurses and other healthcare workers in California and Oregon have also approved a potential strike.
“This is something that started a few years ago,” said Alex Colvin, dean of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, referring to a slight increase in union action. “But this current set of strikes is definitely bigger than what we’ve seen in the past decades.”
The exact number of strikes that occur each year is difficult to quantify, Colvin told NPR. The Bureau of Labor Statistics only tracks major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers. On average, about 16 major work stoppages (strikes and lockouts) begin each year, and in 2021 there were nine through September, according to preliminary federal data.
Colvin’s school began a project in May to follow strikes across the country.
Still, he suggested that workers and unions have been feeling more emboldened recently. While some workers have chosen to quit their jobs entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Colvin noted, others have chosen to stay with their current employers and push for better working conditions.
“Companies need to do more to hire workers. They are offering signing bonuses, better packages for hiring workers,” he said. “The flip side is to keep your existing workers and keep them satisfied, you need to do more. So we’re finally starting to see some improvement on the wage front.”
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