90% Reject John Deere Contract, Union Prepares to Strike
With a massive rejection of the company offer, 10,000 members could strike on Thursday
In a stunning rebuke of the union and the company, UAW members at John Deere have overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offer. If another deal is not reached in the next day, 10,000 union members will walk off the job and go on strike.
"The tentative agreement reached by the UAW and John Deere was rejected this evening by a majority of 90% of the membership," UAW Vice President Chuck Browning said in a statement Sunday night. The UAW negotiating team will report immediately to Moline on Monday. A strike deadline has been set for 11:59 pm, Wednesday, October 13th.
The 10,000 workers, who are located at 14 facilities around the nation, vote 90% to 10% against the tentative agreement which was reached on October 1st. To approve the six year deal, 51% of the members would have needed to vote to support it. Although the contract expired on October 1st, both sides agreed to a 2-week extension to allow the workers to vote on the deal. That extension runs out on Wednesday night at 11:59 PM. The union has said that if a deal is not reached by then, the members will go out on strike.
Like many of the other strikes that have happened this year, workers are unhappy with their wages, pensions, and health care benefits. Currently, workers don't have to pay for healthcare, and it isn't taken out of their paycheck, but workers said they want their healthcare to continue to be provided post-retirement. Instead, John Deere has included a bonus, so workers are offered a certain amount of money to offset the costs. However, the members say that bonus is not enough to offset the costs of healthcare and what it takes to visit a doctor. Pensions will go up for employees hired between October 1997 and Nov. 1, 2021. Anyone hired after that will be enrolled in a cash balanced plan.
"The new kids coming in, they really have nothing to offer them," Laura Hagen, an 18 year CNC operator at a plant in Iowa, told WQAD.com. "They have no retirement. They have no health insurance. Why would you want to work in a shop that offers no benefits for your later years?"
According to the Des Moines Register, the pro-strike sentiment has been strong this year among the rank and file members. Many told the news site that they are ready to go on strike for the first time since 1986 and the Des Moines Register even found signs outside of the High School where one of the votes was taking place that read "REJECT THIS PIECE OF TRASH" and "YOU DESERVE BETTER." Labor Notes reported a similar sentiment as members of Local 838 in Waterloo, Iowa entered the meeting with F*** No” on their T-shirts (they used the uncensored version). At the microphone, one member said that the only thing the agreement was good for was “wiping my a**.”
According to the tentative agreement, those in pay levels one through three would have received a 6% wage increase, while those in pay levels four through seven would have received a 5% increase. Employees working the second and third shifts would have received a work premium pay increase from 60 cents to $1 an hour.
The contract talks come as John Deere has reported a huge increase in revenue over last year. Strong sales this year helped Deere report $4.68 billion net income for the first nine months of its fiscal year, which was more than double the $1.993 billion it reported a year ago. The company is projecting revenue in the $5.7-5.9 billion range, further bolstering the workers' argument that they should hold out for a better deal from the company that is a staple of the American heartland.
If John Deere workers go on strike on Thursday morning, it would be the largest strike since 2019 when UAW members at General Motors walked out for 41 days. This is also the third time in 2021 that UAW members have rejected a tentative agreement, with UAW workers at Volvo Trucks rejecting two agreements earlier in the year before narrowly approving a new contract in July.