Union Members Reject Tentative Agreement With John Deere After Months of Negotiations

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
October 11, 2021 Updated: October 11, 2021

Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) overwhelmingly rejected a new tentative agreement with Deere & Co. on Oct. 10.

The tentative agreement was a six-year contract that would have covered more than 10,000 workers at 14 facilities across the United States, including more than 7,000 workers in Iowa, and was the result of efforts made by UAW negotiators.

However, it was voted down by 90 percent of the union’s membership, UAW Vice President Chuck Browning said in a statement.

The UAW negotiating team returned to the bargaining table on Oct. 11. A strike deadline has been set for 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 13, according to Browning.

The agreement negotiations between John Deere and the union began in August, but have so fair failed to come to a resolution.

Some locals in Iowa posted on Facebook that workers will go on strike if Deere doesn’t meet the UAW’s demands by the end of Oct. 13, the Des Moines Register reported. A number of workers told the outlet that they’re in favor of the union going on strike, which would mark the first time it has done so since 1986, when Deere laid off thousands of employees during the Farm Crisis.

After the rejection of the agreement, Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company said in a statement: “After weeks of negotiations, John Deere reached tentative agreements with the UAW that would have made the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in our industries significantly better for our employees.

“John Deere remains fully committed to continuing the collective bargaining process in an effort to better understand our employees’ viewpoints.”

However, the company said operations will continue as normal.

In the 24-page contract summary, UAW negotiators called for an immediate 5 or 6 percent pay raise for factory workers, depending on the job, effective Oct. 4.

For employees working in lower-end positions, such as fork truck drivers, those in their first year would make $20.10 per hour, a 96-cent increase from what the company paid earlier in 2021. For higher-end, skilled labor jobs, such as electricians and plumbers, new workers would get $30.30 per hour, a $1.71 increase.

The negotiators have also called for maintaining the current premium-free health insurance plan, as opposed to a plan proposed by Deere that would require them to pay 20 percent of premiums, reinstating the cost-of-living adjustment that was eliminated in the previous contract, and an 11 percent raise over six years.

The summary also calls for workers to receive 2 percent lump-sum payments during the weeks of Nov. 4, 2022, Nov. 1, 2024, and Nov. 6, 2026, instead of wage increases.

Some union members told KWQC that the wage increases would amount to a $1.20 raise over five years, noting that this amount doesn’t account for inflation or the overall profits of the company.

Others voiced concerns over the company’s retirement benefits, with one voter saying the health care plan is a “flat bonus based on the number of years the employee worked at John Deere” and that it wasn’t enough to cover retirement health care or potential health emergencies.

The vote came shortly after Deere reported record third-quarter results, driven in large part by high corn and soybean prices.

The company said net income for the nine months ending on Aug. 2 was nearly $4.7 billion. Deere projects that it will earn $5.7 to $5.9 billion for the fiscal year ending in November, which would be more than 60 percent higher than the company’s previous record year in 2013.

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.