Union for John Deere workers reaches tentative deal to end 2-week strike
By Noam Scheiber
The United Automobile Workers announced Saturday that it had reached a tentative agreement with agriculture equipment maker Deere & Co., potentially ending a strike that began in mid-October and involved about 10,000 workers. The agreement must still be approved by the union’s members.
Deere workers primarily in Iowa and Illinois had gone on strike after rejecting an initial agreement with the company earlier in the month. Many workers had complained that the earlier proposed contract produced insufficient wage increases and that it denied a traditional pension to new employees, even though the company was on pace for a record of nearly $6 billion in profits this year.
“The negotiators focused on improving the areas of concern identified by our members during our last ratification process,” Chuck Browning, the UAW vice president who oversaw the negotiations, said in a statement that cited the new agreement’s “enhanced economic gains.”
The statement also said the agreement “continues to provide the highest quality health care benefits in the industry” but made no specific mention of the pension provisions. The union said it would not release details of the agreement until John Deere workers had a chance to review them.
Deere and Co. acknowledged the agreement in a statement but did not provide additional details.
The initial agreement voted down by the membership was announced by the union Oct. 1 and would have increased wages by 5% or 6% this year, depending on a worker’s pay grade, and by 3% more in both 2023 and 2025.
It would have increased pension benefits for many workers, but traditional pension benefits for workers hired after 1997 would have remained well below traditional benefits for workers hired before that year, and new hires would not have received a traditional pension at all.
The labor stoppage came at a moment when the number of strikes had increased relative to the previous several months, including more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg and more than 2,000 hospital workers in New York.
Some Deere workers have grown suspicious of their union leadership amid a series of corruption scandals involving UAW officials and executives at the company then known as Fiat Chrysler that have led to more than 15 convictions. Two recent UAW presidents were among them.