THURSDAY 11/18/2021 5:19 a.m.
DETROIT (AP) — Deere & Co. workers approved a new contract Wednesday that will deliver 10% raises immediately and end a monthlong strike for more than 10,000 employees.
The United Auto Workers union said 61% of its members approved the deal with the tractor maker on their third vote, even though this offer was strikingly similar to one that 55% of workers rejected two weeks ago.
Deere workers — and other unions — have been emboldened to ask for more this year because of the ongoing worker shortages and because workers didn’t always feel appreciated while working long hours during the pandemic.
This latest proposal made only modest changes to the details of Deere’s internal incentive pay plan. The new contract covers 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas where the Moline, Illinois-based company’s iconic John Deere green agricultural and construction equipment is made.
The company said work would resume on Wednesday night.
After the last vote on Nov. 2, Deere officials told the union not to expect the company to offer any more money, and Deere largely stuck to that promise in its latest offer, which it called its final one.
The workers had been on strike since Oct. 14. And in recent weeks, they have had to endure increasingly colder temperatures along the picket lines while trying to get by on the union’s $275 in weekly strike pay or by finding another job.
“UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement Wednesday night.
Deere CEO John C. May said he is pleased that workers will be back on the job “building and supporting the industry-leading products which make our customers more profitable and sustainable.”
In addition to the initial raises, this week’s offer kept the 5% raises that were in the third and fifth years of the six-year deal and 3% lump sum payments in the second, fourth and sixth years of the deal. The offer would also provide an $8,500 ratification bonus, preserve a pension option for new employees, make workers eligible for health insurance sooner and maintain their no-premium health insurance coverage.
What Deere did in this latest offer was tweak the complicated formula it uses to determine which workers receive bonuses based on whether their team hits certain productivity goals. The changes in the formula could make it easier for workers to qualify for the incentive pay, but there are some Deere workers who aren’t eligible for the bonuses based on the job they do in the company’s factories and warehouses.
The workers had been holding out for more from Deere, which has predicted it will report record annual profits between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion when it releases its earnings report later this month. More than 90% of the workers rejected Deere’s initial offer, but the second vote was much closer after the company essentially doubled the raises it was offering.
Another group of UAW-represented workers went on strike earlier this year at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia and secured better pay and lower-cost health benefits after rejecting three tentative contract offers. Currently, about 1,400 Kellogg’s workers have been on strike since early last month at the company’s four U.S. cereal plants.
ORIGINAL: Deere & Co. workers go on strike after rejecting contract
THURSDAY 10/14/2021 9:31 a.m.
MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike Thursday, the first major walkout at the agricultural machinery giant in more than three decades.
The union had said its members would walk off the job if no deal has been reached by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have delivered 5% raises to some workers and 6% raises to others at the Illinois company known for its green tractors.
Under the agreement that the workers rejected, a top scale Deere production worker would make just over $30 per hour, rising to $31.84 after five years, according to summary of the proposal.
“The almost one million UAW retirees and active members stand in solidarity with the striking UAW members at John Deere,” UAW President Ray Curry said.
Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere, said in a statement that the company is “committed to a favorable outcome for our employees, our communities and everyone involved.” He said Deere wants an agreement that would improve the economic position of all 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.
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,” said Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the UAW’s Agricultural Implement Department. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”
A handful of workers began forming a picket line outside the company’s plant in Milan, a town in western Illinois near the Iowa border, about 15 minutes after strike deadline.
The union dropped off a metal barrel and firewood to keep workers warm in preparation for a demonstration that is expected to continues for 24 hours a day, the Quad-City Times reported. At several other Deere plants workers planned to begin picketing Thursday morning when 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’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 $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year. The company has been reporting strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment this year.
The Deere production plants are important contributors to the economy, so local officials hope any strike will be short-lived.
“We definitely want to see our economy stabilize and grow after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said to the Quad-City Times. “Hopefully, these parties can come to a resolution soon.”