With negotiations over a new contract reaching an impasse, more than 10,000 workers at 14 John Deere construction and agricultural equipment manufacturing facilities went on strike at midnight on Oct. 14. Represented by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), they are responsible for assembling and shipping equipment and parts at Deere’s U.S. plants.
“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 Dept., in a press statement Oct. 14. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”
The new contract under dispute covers seven Deere plants in Iowa, four in Illinois and one each in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia. This is the first major strike among Deere workers since a 1986 walkout that lasted for 163 days.
Workers voted to reject the latest offer from the Moline, Ill.-based company, which included 5% and 6% raises for different employee groups. The proposed contract also would have ended the pension program for workers hired after Nov. 1, instead shifting them to a 401(k) retirement savings plan. A version of the contract seen by workers last week before voting to strike also would have excluded full pension and health benefits for retired workers hired after 1997, a sticking point during negotiations.
UAW picketers were positioned near the entrances to Deere facilities in Moline, Waterloo, Iowa and other locations on the morning of Oct. 14.
”Pickets have been set up and our members are organized and ready to hold out and fight for a contract they believe meets their needs,” Ron McInroy, director of UAW Region 4, said in a press statement. “Our members and their families appreciate the community support they have already gotten. Strikes are not easy, but some things are worth fighting for.”
Operations will continue as normal despite the strike, Deere said In a press statement.
“John Deere is committed to a favorable outcome for our employees, our communities, and everyone involved,” said Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Co. “We are determined to reach an agreement with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries. 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.”
The company said it is using employees from other parts of its business not involved in the strike to keep facilities running, under what it calls its Customer Service Continuation plan.
Deere reported strong sales in the third quarter of 2021, with net sales and revenue of $11.5 billion, up 29% year-over-year. Net income was also up 106% year-over-year, with diluted earnings-per-share up 107%. In its construction and forestry division, Deere saw a 38% increase in net sales over the same quarter in 2020, to over $3 billion.