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 reached Wednesday. A contract proposal that would have given 5% to certain workers and 6% to others at the Illinois-based company famous for its green tractor, was rejected by the vast majority of the union earlier in the week.
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 employees, communities, and all parties. Deere would like to see an agreement that improves the economic situation of all employees, he said.
Morris stated, “We will continue working day and night in understanding our employees’ priorities and resolving this strike while also maintaining our operations for the benefit 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 US is currently in a strong position to negotiate, and now is a good moment to strike.
After rejecting three tentative contracts, a third strike was organized by UAW-represented workers at the Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia. They were awarded better pay and lower-cost benefits.
The 14 Deere plants covered by the contracts are seven in Iowa, four each in Illinois, and one each in Kansas and Colorado.
As Deere expects to report record profits of between $5.7 billion – $5.9 billion this fiscal year, contract negotiations at the Moline (Illinois)-based company are unfolding. This year, the company reported strong sales of its construction and agricultural equipment.
Dave Swenson, Iowa State University economist, said that those profits allow Deere to make peace with its workers.
Swenson stated that “They can afford this to settle the matter on much more agreeable terms to union and still retain really strong profitability.”
Deere production facilities are vital contributors to the economy. Local officials hope that any strike will be brief-lived as it will have an immediate effect on workers who will cut back their spending.
To the Quad-City Times, Sangeetha Rayapati, Moline Mayor, stated that “we definitely want our economy to stabilize and grow after impact of the COVID-19 panademic.” “Hopefully these parties can reach a solution soon.”
Swenson stated that the strike’s impact could be even more if Deere factories are supplied by companies. Deere will be under pressure from both suppliers and customers for parts to their Deere equipment if they don’t settle the strike quickly. Swenson stated that Deere could lose market share if farmers choose to purchase from other companies in the fall.
Swenson stated that Deere will be under pressure to comply with the union’s demands.