John Deere workers are fed up. Amid stalled contract negotiations, Jacobin reports UAW workers across three states have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike. If it goes forward, John Deere may just be screwed.
The strike was voted on after renegotiations for a six-year-old contract came grinding to a halt earlier this month. The old contract wasn’t a very popular one, as it barely passed at the last vote. It really only crested the cutoff by 200 votes because of ratification bonuses:
The last contract in 2015 passed very narrowly, by fewer than 200 votes out of 10,000 eligible voters, who traded rising health care costs for a small pay bump.
The largest Deere local, Waterloo Local 838, rejected that contract 2 to 1; Ottumwa Local 74 also turned it down. Hundreds of laid-off workers were allowed to vote on it, though—and with a hefty $3,500 ratification bonus, many of them, unsure they’d have a job to return to either way, took the deal.
The strike couldn’t come at a worse time for John Deere management. With $1.6 billion dollars in the third quarter profits, the company is reporting higher numbers than ever. If the strike goes forward, workers would put down tools in the first half of October, and with the harvest season underway, this could spell doom for the company and potentially have larger ripple effects throughout the agriculture industry. UAW workers rightly contend that they need to be sharing in the record profits. A former local UAW president said the company is aware it needs to do right by workers.
John Deere workers “share one thing in common: Everybody knows that Deere owes us a better contract. Everybody knows that Deere is going to have to pony up if they want to create a viable workforce to create shareholder profit, which is their main interest.”
It’s been over 30 years since John Deere had a strike. Lasting five months, it cost the company $100 million. Workers say they just want to provide for themselves and their families. Just take it from one local UAW president saying:
We are making these shareholders billions of dollars while we are fighting for peanuts. Fighting just to hold on to our health insurance, the same health insurance we relied on when working six days a week for ten to twelve hours a day most weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Negotiations are still ongoing.
Update, 2:44 p.m.: It sounds like they have a tentative new deal.