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Deere & Co. workers go on strike after rejecting contract | News, Sports, Jobs

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-Meg McLaughlin / Quad City Times via AP

April and Daniel Wiggins and Heath Palmer, of Davenport, picked up outside John Deere Davenport Works on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Davenport, Iowa. More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike Thursday after the United Auto Workers union said negotiators could not come up with a new deal that would meet workers’ demands and needs.

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) – More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike Thursday, the farm machinery giant’s first major walkout in more than three decades.

The union had said its members would quit their posts if no deal was reached on Wednesday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have given increases of 5% to some workers and 6% to others at the Illinois company known for its green tractors.

“The nearly one million retired and active UAW members stand in solidarity with striking UAW members at John Deere,” UAW President Ray Curry said.

Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations at Deere, said the company is “Committed to a favorable outcome for our employees, our communities and all those involved. “ He said Deere wanted a deal that would improve the economic situation for all employees.

“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,” Morris said.

Thirty-five years have passed since Deere’s last big strike, but workers have been emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies face worker shortages .

“Our members at John Deere are on strike so they can earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish a level playing field. said Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the UAW’s agricultural tools department. “We remain committed to negotiating until our members’ goals are met.

A handful of workers began forming a picket line outside the company’s factory in Milan, a western Illinois town near the Iowa border, about 15 minutes later. the strike deadline.

The union put down a barrel of metal and firewood to keep workers warm ahead of a protest that is expected to go on 24 hours a day, the Quad-City Times reported. Workers began picketing at several other Deere factories – including its large operation in Waterloo, Iowa – on Thursday morning, around the time the first shift would normally arrive.

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 is going to watch us”, Laursen told the newspaper. “If we take a stand here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it will make a difference for the entire manufacturing industry. Let’s do it. Let’s not be intimidated.

Under the deal that workers rejected, a top-tier Deere production worker would earn just over $ 30 an hour, rising to $ 31.84 after five years, according to the proposal summary.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said workers have a lot of leverage to negotiate right now due to ongoing worker shortages.

“Right now in the United States, workers are in a very good position to negotiate, so now is the right time to strike.” said Goss.

Earlier this year, another group of workers represented by the UAW went on strike at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia and ended up with better pay and cheaper health benefits after rejecting three offers provisional contracts.

The contracts under negotiation cover 14 Deere factories, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois and one in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.

Contract talks for the Moline, Illinois-based company were unfolding as Deere expects to post record profits of between $ 5.7 billion and $ 5.9 billion this year. The company reported strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment this year.

Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson said the gains gave Deere the means to come to terms with the workers.

“They can afford to settle this matter on much more pleasant terms for the union while maintaining very high profitability,” he added. said Swenson.

Swenson said the strike’s impact could spread further if companies supplying Deere factories were to start laying off workers. Deere will therefore face pressure from suppliers and customers who need parts for their Deere equipment in order to settle the strike quickly. And Swenson said Deere will worry about losing market share if farmers decide to buy from other companies this fall.

“There is going to be a lot of pressure on Deere to move closer to the union’s demands,” he added. said Swenson.

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