In case you missed it, workers at Deere & Co., which owns the John Deere brand, are striking after rejecting a contract that wouldn’t give them a significant enough increase in wages. And as it turns out, the reports floating around that Deere workers make $60-70,000 per year are not accurate.
Jonah Furman, a labor journalist who has been covering the strike in detail, shared a photo of the actual wages a John Deere employee of 10 years was making: under $40,000 per year.
You should read the full thread above, which explains the difference between what Deere says it pays and what it actually pays. John Deere claimed that its assembly-line workers would make about $60,000 per year and that the rejected contract would have brought those wages up to $72,000, the Washington Post reported.
That figure misses out on one key fact, Furman contends: Most Deere plants undergo significant layoffs on a yearly basis, and those layoffs can last up to three months. Workers aren’t paid for those hours. So, to claim that a worker can make $60,000 per year isn’t wrong, but it fails to take into account the lived reality of workers. Most aren’t working the 2,200 hours per year required to make the $60,00 figure. They’re not even getting close.
And that’s still not even the full picture. Deere did hedge that the wage figures it released were based on “CIPP 120 percent.” CIPP stands for Continuous Improvement Pay Plan, which is a team-based incentive pay program that only sees workers gaining wages based on an entire department’s productivity when compared to quotas set by the company.
The quota is upped every six months, Furman reports, whether or not those quotas have been met. And even if you do get close — by hitting 115 percent of your CIPP quota — your money doesn’t go to you. It goes into a reserve fund. If your department doesn’t hit quota six months from now, Deere can take money out of that reserve fund. And if you’re a low-level employee, you’re not getting CIPP money at all.
(And yes, when pandemic-related supply chain issues slowed down production causing many to miss CIPP targets, Deere didn’t budge, and workers lost pay.)
That’s not to say no worker ever sees money from CIPP. It does happen. But it doesn’t happen for everyone, which leaves different departments at odds with each other. And it doesn’t happen all the time.
So, sure. Deere is right, in a way. Workers can hypothetically make $60,000 per year — but they don’t, because Deere is making a ‘perfect world’ calculation that doesn’t account for reality. It’s like claiming you’re capable of running a four minute mile. Sure, the human body can be made capable of that, but if you aren’t already an ultra-fit runner, there are going to be a hell of a lot of factors preventing you from living up to your claim.
In a world where workers are making under $40,000, a five to six percent wage increase doesn’t sound as unreasonable as many people are framing it.
This is why it’s important to talk to the people on the ground. If you haven’t heard from them, you’re not getting the full picture.