Thursday’s strike by more than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers was the first major walkout at this agricultural machinery giant in over three decades.
The union said that its members would quit the job if there was no agreement on Wednesday. A contract offer by the union was rejected by the vast majority of members. It would have provided 5% raises for some workers and 6% to others at the Illinois-based company, known for its green tractor fleet.
Ray Curry, UAW President, stated that “the nearly one million UAW retired members and active members stand with the striking UAW members in John Deere.”
Brad Morris, Deere’s vice president of labor relations, stated that the company is committed to a positive outcome for its employees, their communities, and all parties. He also said Deere would like an agreement that would improve the economic situation of all employees.
Morris stated, “We will continue working day and night in understanding our employees’ priorities, resolve this strike, and keep our operations running for all those we serve.”
Threety-five year have passed since the last major Deere strike. However, workers felt empowered to demand more after having worked long hours during the pandemic as well as because of the shortage of workers.
Chuck Browning, vice-president and director of UAW’s Agricultural Implement Department, stated that John Deere members are striking for the right to earn a decent living and retire with dignity. “We will continue to bargain until our members achieve their goals.”
A few workers formed a picket line in front of the Milan plant, which is located in western Illinois, near the Iowa border. This was about 15 minutes after the strike deadline.
In preparation for the demonstration, which is expected to last 24 hours per day, the Quad City Times reported that the union left a metal barrel with firewood and a wooden box. Picketing began at other Deere plants, including its large operation in Waterloo (Iowa), Thursday morning just before the start of the first shift.
Chris Laursen, a Deere painter, said to the Des Moines Register that the strike could make a difference.
Laursen told the newspaper that “the whole nation’s going be watching us.” It’s going make a big difference for the entire manufacturing industry if we stand up for our families and ourselves. Let’s do it. We don’t need to be intimidated.
According to the summary of the proposal, top-level Deere production workers would earn just $30 an hour and rise to $31.84 over five years under the agreement the workers rejected.
Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist, said that workers have a lot to negotiate with right now due to the continuing shortage of workers.
Goss stated that labor in the U.S. is in a strong position to negotiate right now, and now is a good moment to strike.
After rejecting three contract offers, another group of UAW members went on strike at the Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia. They were awarded better pay and lower-cost benefits.