MOLINE, Ill. – More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike Thursday, the first major walkout at the agricultural machinery giant in more than three decades.
The union had said its members would walk off the job if no deal was reached Wednesday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer this week that would have delivered 5% raises to some workers and 6% raises to others at the Illinois company known for its green tractors.
“The almost 1 million UAW retirees and active members stand in solidarity with the striking UAW members at John Deere,” UAW President Ray Curry said.
Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere, said the company wants an agreement that would improve the economic position of all employees.
“We will keep working day and night to understand our employees' priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running for the benefit of all those we serve,” Morris said.
Thirty-five years have passed since the last major Deere strike, but workers were emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are facing worker shortages.
Under the agreement that the workers rejected, a top-scale Deere production worker would make just more than $30 per hour, rising to $31.84 after five years, according to a summary of the proposal.
The contracts under negotiation cover 14 Deere plants, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois and one each in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.
The contract talks at the Moline, Illinois-based company were unfolding as Deere is expecting to report record profits between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year. The company has been reporting strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment this year.
Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson said those profits give Deere the means to come to terms with workers.
“They can afford to settle this thing on much more agreeable terms to the union and still maintain really strong profitability,” Swenson said.