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Killed on the John Deere Picket Line

UAW member killed crossing road on Illinois picket line

Brian Young's picture
Oct 27, 2021

Update: Richard Rich has now been identified as the UAW member who was killed on the picket line.

Tragedy has struck the John Deere picket line after one of their members was killed by a car in front of the John Deere Parts Distribution Center in Milan Illinois this morning.

The tragic accident happened at about 6:00 AM on Wednesday morning as the 57-year-old worker was attempting to cross the Rock Island-Milan Parkway at the Deere Drive intersection. According to Milan Police Chief Shawn Johnson, the man was in the middle of the intersection when he was fatally hit. The police do not currently believe that he was intentionally hit, but they are continuing to investigate. The police have not yet released the name of the deceased UAW member. The accident occurred right as the union was conducting a shift change on the picket line.

The intersection where the accident occurred is located about a half a mile from the entrance to the plant. UCOMM previously reported that John Deere has been filing lawsuits to push the picketers back and away from the plant and the gates that allow scabs to come in and replace the union workforce. Johnson described the road where the accident happened as a four-lane highway that is not designed for pedestrians and contained no crosswalk. He also said it was unclear if the man was joining the picket line or leaving it.

Labor Notes reporter Jonah Furman is also reporting that UAW members and allies on the picket line have recently filed complaints with city and county officials about missing or broken streetlights in the area. They are saying that this may have contributed to the accident, although police are not yet confirming this suspicion.

"UAW members mourned the death today of a 56-year-old member of Milan, Ill, Local 79, who was a 15-year employee at the Milan John Deere Parts Distribution Plant in Milan, Ill. He was struck in a traffic accident and fatally injured while walking to the picket line.

“On behalf of the UAW and all working families, we mourn the passing of our UAW brother,” said Ray Curry, UAW President. “It is a somber time to lose a member who made the ultimate sacrifice in reporting to picket for a better life for his family and coworkers.”

"The UAW will adhere to the policy to withhold the member’s name until family members are notified and decide to release their loved one’s information.

Curry said the UAW flag will fly at half-staff in honor of their fallen brother.

UCOMM previously reported UAW members went on strike at John Deere on October 14th after rejecting a tentative agreement between the company and the union. With 10,000 members on strike, this is the largest active strike in the country.

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