Thousands of John Deere workers walked off the job early Thursday and went on strike. Workers from the Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado and Georgia plants rejected the company’s latest contract offer and elected to go on strike instead.
John Deere Workers Rejected New Contract Offer
John Deere joins a number of American companies embroiled in a workers’ strike. Earlier, Nabisco and Frito-Lay workers walked off their jobs once their collective bargaining agreement expired.
Also as of this week, Kellogg’s factories across the US remain mostly idle as union workers remain on strike.
Union workers say that John Deere’s current offer of a 5-6% raise, but they rejected it. The proposal didn’t meet workers’ wage and retirement goals. At the same time, union officials say they are seizing the moment to get their demands met.
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Currently, manufacturing facilities have trouble filling job openings as they contend with supply chain issues. This presents union workers the opportunity to regain the benefits lost in the 90s. Assembly line firings and outsourcing dominated the decade then.
Chris Laursen, a long-time union worker at John Deere’s Iowa plant, said it’s about time. “The cards are in our favor right now … it’s never been lined up this well for us,” said. In addition, Laursen said that the company is posting record profits.
He also pointed to CEO John May’s massive pay raise. “The labor shortage is in our favor too,” he said. “Deere can’t hire enough people with the package they’re offering right now,” he said.
John Deere Committed To a Favorable Outcome For All Parties
Meanwhile, John Deere spokeswoman Jen Hartmann said the company remains committed to reaching a favorable outcome.
The company aims to “put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest-paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries.”
In the meantime, the strikes continue for 10,0000 striking union workers. This covers 14 John Deere plants across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia. Meanwhile, management is deploying a continuity plan that plans to bring in non-union workers to take over jobs.
“Our immediate concern is meeting the needs of our customers, who work in time-sensitive and critical industries such as agriculture and construction,” Hartmann said.
2021 Activated A Lot Of Worker Strikes
Many unions realized that the present economic conditions are ripe for a strike. Even as companies are recording record profits, many are losing workers over low pay and pandemic working conditions.
Union workers are asking for a larger share of pandemic-era profits. For example, John Deere posted earnings that reached a record $1.79 billion in the second quarter. In addition, operating profits hit $489 million.
Meanwhile, the company insists that its assembly workers are already earning the best wages and enjoy the best benefits in their industry.
Average workers typically rake in $60,000 per year, according to company wage figures. The offer rejected by the union proposes upping the salary to $72,000.
Laursen said the strike is really about winning back what workers lost long ago. This includes the larger pensions workers enjoyed during the 1990s.
“Fast-forward 19 years, after many concessionary contracts, here we are with a membership that’s better-informed,” Laursen said.
In addition, the union received some support from the Teamsters union of truck drivers. The Teamsters are helping the striking workers hold the picket line.
However, some truckers from a nonunionized contractor often cross the picket lines to deliver some work. Despite the strike, Deere & Co stock remains unfazed, closing Thursday above $329 per share.
Watch the ABC News video covering the John Deere workers on strike:
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