John Deere workers end strike, reach deal

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Members of the United Auto Workers strike outside of a John Deere plant, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Ankeny, Iowa. About 10,000 UAW workers have gone on strike against John Deere since last Thursday at plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(WHBF) – The United Auto Workers ratified an agreement with John Deere on Wednesday evening that ended a five-week strike of 10,000 workers.

The UAW members, who wanted higher wages, began the strike at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14. It was their first strike in 35 years.

A UAW source told WHBF on Wednesday night the approval vote was 61%.

The latest contract maintains the 10% immediate raises the last deal offered, and it makes what the United Auto Workers union called modest changes to Deere’s internal incentive pay program for workers.

In addition to the initial raises, this week’s offer kept the 5% raises that were in the third and fifth years of the six-year deal and 3% lump sum payments in the second, fourth and sixth years of the deal. The offer would also provide an $8,500 ratification bonus, preserve a pension option for new employees, make workers eligible for health insurance sooner and maintain their no-premium health insurance coverage.

What Deere did in this latest offer was tweak the complicated formula it uses to determine which workers receive bonuses based on whether their team hits certain productivity goals. The changes in the formula could make it easier for workers to qualify for the incentive pay, but there are some Deere workers who aren’t eligible for the bonuses based on the job they do in the company’s factories and warehouses.

A Deere spokesperson said operations will resume for the third shift Wednesday night.

“I’m pleased our highly skilled employees are back to work building and supporting the industry-leading products which make our customers more profitable and sustainable,” said John C. May, chairman and chief executive officer for Deere, said in a release.

Deere workers — and other unions — have been emboldened to ask for more this year because of the ongoing worker shortages and because workers didn’t always feel appreciated while working long hours during the pandemic.

The new contract covers 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas where the Moline, Illinois-based company’s iconic John Deere green agricultural and construction equipment is made.

A few days into the strike, Deere won a temporary injunction against the union to limit the number of people who could be on the picket line outside the Davenport Works Plant. A judge rejected the company’s move for a similar injunction outside the Des Moines Works in Ankeny.

The union and the company reached a tentative agreement on Oct. 30, but 55% of the union membership rejected it.

“John Deere’s success depends on the success of our people. Through our new collective bargaining agreements, we’re giving employees the opportunity to earn wages and benefits that are the best in our industries and are groundbreaking in many ways,” May said, “We have faith that, in return, our employees will find new and better ways to improve our competitiveness and transform the way our customers do their work. Together, our future is bright.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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