John Deere UAW strike continues with dealers in some markets counting their losses

The workers that Deere & Co vice president of labour relations Brad Morris described as, “The highest paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries,” have continued their 60-plus day strike.

A survey of dealers in several markets have concluded some form of lost business through dwindling parts and also impacts such as delays on machinery already ordered.

As for the strikers, well the ink isn’t even dry on the last proposal they rejected, but from a position of 95% against accepting the Deere & Co proposal two weeks ago, the vote is now closer at 45% yes to 55%.

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) informed Deere & Company the production and maintenance employees at 12 facilities in Illinois, Iowa and Kansas have rejected a second tentative agreement.

Meanwhile, employees at Deere parts facilities in Denver and Atlanta have voted in support of a separate agreement with identical economic terms, so Deere may be closer to an overall resolution.

But some sectors of the UAW are still very angry at their treatment from John Deere and as a result, members were quick to strike after voting down the agreement on the 2 November. The union said the strike against John Deere and company will continue “as we discuss next steps with the company.”

John Deere is defending its offer made to the UAW, and through spokesperson Marc A. Howze, group president said, “Through the agreements reached with the UAW, John Deere would have invested an additional $3.5 billion in our employees, and by extension, our communities, to significantly enhance wages and benefits that were already the best and most comprehensive in our industries.”

“This investment was the right one for Deere, our employees, and everyone we serve together. Even though it would have created greater competitive challenges within our industries, we had faith in our employees’ ability to sharpen our competitive edge. With the rejection of the agreement covering our Midwest facilities, we will execute the next phase of our Customer Service Continuation Plan.”

This what the UAW rejected, that according to Deere & Co would have been a best-in-industry agreement: an immediate 10% wage increase and 30% wage increases over the term of contract; healthcare with $0 premiums, $0 deductibles, $0 coinsurance; new paid parental leave, autism care, and other benefits; ground-breaking retirement benefits; and a ratification bonus of $8,500.

It will be interesting to see what added goodies the UAW can squeeze out of Deere & Co as the strike has the potential to disrupt parts and machinery deliveries worldwide.

John Deere dealers with long memories are urging Deere & Co to get out of this roadblock as quickly as possible, saying the company can easily afford to pay for the new labour agreement and sharing wealth with employees is now normal in business. The last similar, big Deere & Co strike in 1986 is well etched in dealer memories, as it lasted for almost 6 months.