About 10,000 union workers at farm equipment manufacturer Deere & Company went on strike Thursday after overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal worked out with the company by negotiators for the United Automobile Workers union.
“Our members at John Deere are on strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity, and establish fair work rules,” Chuck Browning, the union’s director of agriculture, said in a statement. a statement. “We remain committed to negotiations until our members’ goals are met.”
Deere said it was “determined to reach an agreement” that would benefit workers. “We will continue to work day and night to understand our workers’ priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running in the interest of all those we serve,” said Brad Morris, vice president for employment relations of the company, in a statement. .
The strike deadline was announced on Sunday after the union said its members had voted preliminary agreement reached on October 1 with the company, which makes the John Deere brand tractors. Union negotiators had characterized the proposal as “significant economic benefits” and “the highest quality health care benefits in the industry”.
But workers, spread across 14 sites, mainly in Iowa and Illinois, criticized the deal for failing to raise wages sufficiently, denying new employees traditional pensions and not substantially improving an incentive program they find too stingy.
“We’ve never had the deck in our favor as it is today,” said Chris Laursen, an employee at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, who until recently served as president of his local facility.
Mr. Laursen cited Deere & Company’s profitability – which is on track to set a record of nearly $6 billion this fiscal year – as well as relatively high prices of agricultural commodities and supply chain bottlenecks due to the pandemic as sources of leverage for workers.
“The company is reaping such benefits, but we’re fighting over the crumbs here,” he said.
The strike comes at a time when many employers are grappling with staff shortages and workers across the country seem more willing strikes and other labor actions.
Last week, more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg, the grain producer, went on strike, and Mondelez International, the maker of Oreos, had a work stoppage this summer. Workers have run prominent union campaigns at Amazon and Starbucks.
Below the preliminary deal, wages would have increased by 5 or 6 percent this year, depending on an employee’s pay scale, and then another 3 percent in 2023 and 2025.
Traditional retirement benefits would have increased but would have remained significantly lower for workers hired after 1997, and many workers were disappointed with the reduction in benefits for new hires, Mr Laursen said.
The negotiations have raised suspicions among ordinary workers of the international union following a series of scandals in recent years involving union corruption and illegal payouts to union officials from executives at the company then known as Fiat Chrysler.
The scandals led to more than 15 convictions, including those of two recent UAW presidents.