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Negotiators for Deere & Co. and its striking union spent Monday talking, without reaching an contract agreement, as of 6 p.m., that would end the five-day strike by roughly 10,000 workers.
Union workers holding blue-and-white signs — members of the Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) — spent the day on the picket lines in Davenport, Dubuque, Waterloo and Ankeny, Iowa, and East Moline, Milan and Moline, Ill., and in Kansas.
“We are fully committed to the collective bargaining process and resolving the strike,” Jen Hartmann, director of Deere public relations and enterprise social media, said in a statement Monday. “We remain committed to providing our production and maintenance employees with the opportunities to earn the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in our industries.”
The six-year contract offer from Deere, which union members overwhelmingly rejected, would have raised wages by roughly 5 percent over the life of the contract. The proposed deal also limited retirement benefits for workers hired after the contract was ratified.
Multiple Deere workers said the proposed contracts was unacceptable, considering the company’s record-high profits over the past year. Speaking on the condition of anonymity because said they fear retribution, they said they have faced forced overtime and poor treatment from managers.
For the 2020 fiscal year, Deere & Co.’s net income totaled $2.751 billion, according to the company.
On the picket lines
At the John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, firewood, rain ponchos and “UAW on Strike” signs were piled under a white tent. Cases of water and energy drinks provided the base for boxes of doughnuts, Casey’s pizza boxes, chips, sandwiches and other food donated by the community.
“It's really nice to see everybody come together,” said David Schmelzer, a union worker at the Milan plant. “Hopefully, after this, you know, we'll be stronger for it.
“It means everything to us, even though we may work for different companies, in some cases we work for competitors, but we're all fighting for the same things,” Schmelzer said.
One union member on the Milan said he hopes the negotiations will bring improved terms. If not, he said he fears tensions might boil over.
“That's only going to incite the people that are already mad,” said the worker, who declined to give his name.
Members of other local unions have delivered firewood, hand warmers and food over the past five days, according to Brian Rothenberg, communications adviser for UAW.
Some of the unions showing solidarity, workers said, were the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, Teamsters Local 238, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 25, and United Steelworkers Local 105.
Roy Hutt, recording secretary for the United Steelworkers local, said his members have made donations and visited the picket line to support Deere workers.
Hutt said Local 105’s contract is up in May 2022 and, before the Deere strike, Deere workers attended his union’s info rallies to show support.
“It's important for all of us to stand together and support each other because you never know when you might be out or facing the same situation,” Hutt said.
Although Deere employees are fighting for their own benefits, Schmelzer said, he hopes the strike had a positive impact for other unions.
“This will help others stand up in the future and fight for what they deserve,” Schmelzer said. “It's great to see our other brothers and sisters joining us with this.”