Around 10,000 unionists at farm equipment manufacturer Deere & Company went on strike early Thursday after the vast majority rejected a contract offer developed with the company by negotiators from the United Auto Workers Union.
“Our members at John Deere are on strike to earn a living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” said Chuck Browning, director of the union’s agriculture department, in a statement. “We continue to bargain until the goals of our members are achieved.”
The strike deadline was announced on Sunday after the union said its members had voted against a preliminary agreement reached on October 1 with a company that makes John Deere-branded tractors. Trade union negotiators described the proposal as providing “significant economic benefits” and “the benefits of the highest quality healthcare in the industry.”
But workers, who are scattered across a dozen or so businesses, mostly in Iowa and Illinois, criticized the deal for not raising wages enough, denying traditional retirement benefits to new hires, and failing to significantly improve a motivation program that they find overly stingy.
“We’ve never had the build like we do now,” said Chris Laursen, a John Deere plant worker in Ottumwa, Iowa, who until recently served as local president.
Mr Laursen cited Deere & Company profitability, which is approaching a record of nearly $ 6 billion this fiscal year, as well as relatively high agricultural prices and supply chain bottlenecks resulting from the pandemic as sources of pressure for workers. …
“The company is reaping such rewards, but here we are fighting over crumbs,” he said.
The strike is taking place at a time when many employers are grappling with labor shortages, and workers across the country seem to be more willing to go on strikes and other labor actions.
Last week, more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg, a cereal maker, went on strike, and Mondelez International, a producer of Oreos, faced a work stoppage this summer. Workers ran high-profile union campaigns at Amazon and Starbucks.
According to the preliminary agreement, wages this year would increase by 5 or 6 percent, depending on the level of the employee’s wages, and then by an additional 3 percent in 2023 and 2025.
Traditional retirement benefits would rise, but remain significantly lower for workers hired after 1997 than before, and many workers were disappointed with the cut when hiring new employees, Laursen said.
The negotiations were looming suspicion among ordinary workers of the international union following a series of scandals in recent years involving intra-union corruption and illegal bribery of executives at a company then known as Fiat Chrysler of union officials.
The scandals have led to the convictions of more than 15 people, including two recent UAW presidents.