116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DAVENPORT — The UAW strike of Deere & Co. has lasted through its second weekend.
The strike began Oct. 14 when union workers at Deere facilities in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas rejected a contract offer. The company, based in the Quad Cities, also has Iowa plants in Ankeny, Davenport, Dubuque, Ottumwa and Waterloo.
Here's a roundup to catch up on what’s been happening during the first full week of the strike:
Day 5: Monday, Oct. 18
Deere & Co. and Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) representatives headed back to the negotiating table.
The voted-down, six-year offer from Deere would have raised wages by roughly 5 percent over the life of the contract. The deal also limited retirement benefits for workers hired after the contract was ratified. Deere workers have faced forced overtime and poor treatment from managers and company leaders, multiple employees asserted. They said the last offer was unacceptable, especially considering the company’s record profits. For fiscal 2020, Deere & Co. net income totaled $2.751 billion, according to the company.
At all Deere plants in the Quad Cities, picketers have seen large donations of food, firewood and weather gear from community members, businesses, local unions and others as an expression of solidarity toward workers.
“It's really nice to see everybody come together,” said David Schmelzer, a union worker at the Milan, Ill., plant, while standing in front of his own plant's food donations. “Hopefully after this you know we'll be stronger for it.”
Small businesses in the Quad Cities are offering free or discounted goods and services for union workers and their families, ranging from free burgers and alcohol to discounted haircuts and furnace repair.
“It honestly just helps 100 percent with the stress,” one striking UAW worker said while getting a haircut. “Knowing that we’ve got the backing of the community to help throughout all of this — it was this or shave my head.”
Moline police said a semi-truck entered a gate of the John Deere Seeding plant driving “too fast” on Oct. 19, near union workers on the picket line. A night shift officer in a squad car was at the intersection when the truck entered the plant and asked the driver to drive slower.
Union workers at the Milan and Davenport Deere plants continued to line the roads, creating clumps of blue and white “UAW on strike” signs. One worker hoped for a reasonable outcome that was fair for all parties.
“There has to be some common ground,” said a worker at the Milan plant.
Day 7: Wednesday, Oct. 20
Deere sought and received a temporary injunction limiting the ways union workers can conduct themselves on the picket lines at Davenport Works. Deere told a judge that picketers' conduct has disrupted access to its properties and put others, including UAW members, at risk.
"Deere & Co. was granted an order for temporary injunction to maintain a safe environment for all our employees and contractors — including those reporting to work and those exercising their right to strike," said Jen Hartmann, director of public relations and enterprise social media. "This temporary injunction was put in place to provide safe entry and exit to the John Deere Davenport Works facility."
Chief Judge Marlita Greve ordered the UAW to limit to four the number of picketers who can be "near" each gate of Davenport Works, banned chairs and barrel fires by picketers and prohibited harassment and intimidation tactics that at least five trucking companies said they encountered.
When union members heard of the injunction, they immediately rushed to comply with the new regulations, according to two employees.
Union members rushed to pack up chairs, tents and the stockpiles of food and firewood to comply with the order. The supplies were moved to the Local 281 office, according to the employees. The crowds thinned to just four members per gate at the Davenport plant. The fire barrels were kept in place overnight since they were still live fires at the time.
Day 8: Thursday, Oct. 21
Experts said some terms of the temporary injunction are unusual.
Labor law experts who reviewed the Deere injunction say the ban on chairs and fire barrels is unusual and the injunction lacks sufficient evidence to prove their role in impacting ingress and egress at the Davenport Deere plant.
James M. Cooney, a labor and employment law expert in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, said since the exhibits lack a direct mention of fire barrels or chairs being used to create dangerous situations, there isn’t a basis for the ban.
“I would think that there is no basis for prohibiting the fire cans unless there was some evidence that they were using the fire source to intimidate and block,” Cooney said. “From the materials I read, even the company is not alleging that.”
Cooney said this might open up the potential for UAW’s council to argue for modifications in the injunction.
More than 20 people gathered outside the Scott County Courthouse to show solidarity with UAW members on strike. Community leaders, union retirees, people with union family members and local government officials attended and spoke out in support of the strike and criticized Deere’s injunction.
“We're here to say as a community John Deere doesn't have the power, you have the power,” said Honda Wang, a union organizer who initiated the event.
Shane Lindburg and Dave Crosiar were two of the four union members on the picket line at the main gate to the Davenport Works plant bracing the 46-degree weather without the benefit of fire barrels.
The scene was a stark contrast to Oct. 18, where over 50 people were gathered on the picket line. Lindburg and Crosiar said a community member dropped off hot chocolate for the picketers to help them stay warm.
The injunction “doesn’t scare me,” Crosiar said. “We do what we have to do.”
Day 9: Friday, Oct. 22
Deere & Co. will continue to provide health insurance for UAW workers and pay out Continuous Improvement Pay Plan incentives earned before the strike as scheduled, the company said in a news release.
"John Deere’s health care and CIPP incentives are critical aspects of John Deere’s industry-leading wages and benefits," the statement said. "We are taking these steps to demonstrate our commitment to doing what’s right by our employees and focusing on all that we can achieve together."
Workers outside of the East Moline plant clustered around a fire barrel, feet away from a large, inflatable, black rat named Scabby. Unlike at the Davenport plant, they are still able to have fire barrels, cluster in groups of more than two, and stockpile snacks and firewood at the picket site.