10,000 John Deere Workers Go On Strike After Rejecting Contract

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
October 14, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

About 10,000 unionized workers at the agriculture equipment maker Deere & Company went on strike in the early hours of Thursday morning, saying that the company failed to present a contract proposal that met the United Auto Workers (UAW) union members’ “demands and needs.”

“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity, and establish fair work rules,” Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the union’s agricultural department, said in a statement. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”

The union had warned that its members would go on strike if a deal hadn’t been reached by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have delivered 5 percent raises to some workers and 6 percent raises to others.

Workers pushed back against the proposed deal, saying that it failed to sufficiently raise salaries, denied new employees a traditional pension, and failed to make sufficient improvements to the company’s incentive program.

Thirty-five years have passed since the last major Deere strike, but workers were emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are facing worker shortages.

“We’ve never had the deck stacked in our advantage the way it is now,” Chris Laursen, a worker at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, told the The New York Times.

“The company is reaping such rewards, but we’re fighting over crumbs here,” he said, citing the company’s profitability. According to The NY Times, the company, which makes the John Deere brand of tractors, is on track to set a record profit of nearly $6 billion this fiscal year.

Laursen separately told the Des Moines Register that he thought a strike was imminent and could make a significant difference.

“The whole nation’s going to be watching us,” Laursen said. “If we take a stand here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it’s going to make a difference for the whole manufacturing industry. Let’s do it. Let’s not be intimidated.”

UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement that the almost 1 million UAW retirees and active members “stand in solidarity with the striking UAW members at John Deere.”

The contracts under negotiation covered 14 Deere plants across the United States, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois, and one each in Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia.

The Epoch Times has contacted Deere & Company for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.