John Deere Workers Overwhelmingly Reject Tentative Contract

Photo: Signs posted outside of the high school where UAW vote on a proposed John Deere contract took place. (Courtesy: John Deere Worker)

By Sarah Ahmed

On Sunday, John Deere workers with the United Auto Workers (UAW) voted to reject a contract that was endorsed by union officials. According to a statement by UAW Vice President Chuck Browning, 90% of workers voted against the agreement. The UAW have a deadline of midnight on Wednesday, October 13 for contract negotiations, at which time a strike can begin.

Union officials proposed the now rejected contract despite over 90% of workers voting to authorize a strike in September. Following the strike vote, a worker in Davenport told Tribune that workers are demanding a $10-per-hour raise, health care coverage with no premiums, and overtime pay after eight hours a day.

The rejected contract included a 5-6% raise effective this year, followed by 3% pay increases effective 2023 and 2025, meaning that a fork truck driver making $19.10 per hour would see a $2.18 per hour pay increase over six years. The contract also removed the pension for employees hired after November and instead offers them a 401k plan.

A worker in Des Moines told Tribune that at Saydel High School, where workers with UAW Local 450 voted on Sunday, the crowd was angry. Outside the high school, someone (presumably workers) had placed signs on posts reading, “You deserve better,” and “$1.25 raise for the next six long years, reject this piece of trash.”

The weak contract comes after Deere and Company posted record profits this year. According to Deere and Company’s third quarter earnings report, the company made a net income of $4.7 billion dollars in first nine months of the year, compared with $1.99 billion for the same period last year.

The worker was adamant that she and her coworkers deserved a better contract: “We work hard making the machines and our incentive plan is very bad. People are fed up with us doing all the hard work and [CEO] John May and his cronies are reaping the benefits of it. We are tired of the Company getting all the big bonuses and we get nothing. [John Deere] would have no income if it wasn’t for us.”

According to the worker, her local in Des Moines was preparing to strike and giving assignments to first-day picketers. “The only way we will get [John Deere’s] attention is strike,” she said, “[John Deere] has been the bully to the UAW since 1997 and it is time we get what we deserve. If we don’t strike many people say they will drop out of the Union.”

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