Striking Deere workers approve new contract on third try

About 10,000 workers at farm equipment maker Deere & Company will return to work after a contract is approved on Wednesday, ending a...


About 10,000 workers at farm equipment maker Deere & Company will return to work after a contract is approved on Wednesday, ending a five week strike which affected 14 facilities primarily in Iowa and Illinois.

The six-year contract was ratified, 61 percent to 39 percent, after workers rejected two earlier deals between the United Automobile Workers and the company, known for its distinctive green and yellow colors John deere some products. The new contract increases wages and includes wording that makes compensation for company performance more generous.

“The courageous willingness of our members to strike in order to achieve a better standard of living and a more secure retirement has resulted in a groundbreaking contract and sets a new standard for workers not only within the UAW but across the country. country, “Chuck Browning, the union’s agricultural equipment department director, said in a statement.

John C. May, President and CEO of Deere, said in a statement, “I am delighted that our highly skilled employees are back on the job creating and supporting the cutting edge products that make our customers more profitable and sustainable.

Under the deal, workers can earn 20 percent more than their base pay when they meet productivity targets, rather than 15 percent, according to a union spokesperson.

The other provisions of the contract are the same as those of a proposal that workers rejected in beginning of November, including salary increases of 10% this year and 5% each in 2023 and 2025, as well as lump sum payments equivalent to 3% of salaries for the remaining years of the contract.

This proposal also gave future employees a traditional pension – something that current workers have but the union’s initial agreement with the company omitted for new hires – and established a post-retirement health care fund.

About 55 percent of workers voted to reject the second deal between Deere and the UAW, with some complaining that pay increases were too low at a company that expected to earn nearly $ 6 billion this fiscal year. Others cited corporate performance pay, the goals of which they said were too difficult to achieve for many employees.

Matt Pickrell, a longtime worker at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, said some workers languished in jobs where it was effectively impossible to earn performance pay, such as workers on a slowed down assembly line by supply chain disruptions.

Mr Pickrell said he had the seniority to get a different assignment when it became clear that there was no way to meet a new performance target, but more junior workers did. did not have that option.

“It creates another level,” Mr. Pickrell said, alluding to a pay system in which workers with less seniority receive lower pay or benefits.

Mr Pickrell said members of the union’s bargaining team told workers in Ottumwa on Wednesday morning that the company is committed to adjusting the performance plan to better reflect circumstances beyond their control. ‘a worker.

After the workers rejected the second agreement, Deere said that his offer had been as generous as he could afford and that he had no intention of returning to the bargaining table. But the two sides had further discussions and Friday entered into a third agreement, which proposed modifications to the profit-sharing plan.

The strike was part of a rise work stoppages in October, but since then some employers have avoided potentially large strikes by negotiating last-minute deals with unions, including the healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente and a group of hollywood studios.

The willingness of workers to vote against two proposals with significant wage gains reflected the strength of their bargaining position as the country faces labor shortages as well as their particular influence on Deere.

While Deere had maintained throughout the strike that it continued to operate in the factories with the help of salaried employees, Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, said in an interview this month that ‘he was deeply skeptical of the company’s ability to avoid a major impact on production.

He said this reflects the benefit enjoyed by workers negotiating company-wide, which looks like a common approach in Europe and South America but relatively rare in the United States.

“There was an opportunity – we can push this as far as we can because the risks are low, they don’t produce anything,” Cohen said, channeling the mindset of the workers.

But some workers said they feared public opinion would start to turn against them if they walked away from a contract that included substantial improvements.

“If we refused this, what would it look like to the public? Said Chris Laursen, another Deere worker in Ottumwa who opposed the original deal, just before the second vote.

“If we take what we have now, it’s a decent victory for the American labor movement,” Laursen added. “I hope this will help empower workers. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Striking Deere workers approve new contract on third try
Striking Deere workers approve new contract on third try
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