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Deere strike: Get caught up on what happened last week
By Cara Smith - Quad City Times
Nov. 8, 2021 6:30 am, Updated: Nov. 8, 2021 7:22 am
DAVENPORT — As the UAW strike of Deere & Co. now heads into its fourth week, here's a roundup of happenings from the third full week of the strike.
Day 17: Saturday, Oct. 30
Deere and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on Day 17.
Jen Hartmann, director for public relations at Deere, said the two sides “have reached a second tentative agreement on a new six-year labor agreement covering approximately 10,100 production and maintenance employees at 12 facilities in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas.” The first agreement was voted down Oct. 10.
Chuck Browning, UAW vice president and director of the agricultural implement department, said the agreement contains “economic gains” and “highest quality healthcare benefits.”
Day 19: Monday, Nov. 1
UAW workers returned to the picket lines hours away from voting on the new tentative agreement.
That offer included an immediate 10 percent increase in wages in the first year and an additional 5 percent in the third and fifth years. Some of that increase is tied to inflation through cost of living adjustments, which have the potential to change. On the off years — the second, fourth and six years — workers would get 3 percent lump sum payments. Upon ratification of the contract, workers would receive an $8,500 bonus.
Workers would not pay any premiums for health care insurance, have no deductibles or coinsurance, and no changes in copays. Union members would get two weeks of paid parental leave.
The deal also included enhanced retirement benefits.
Day 20: Tuesday, Nov. 2
The UAW voted down the offer from Deere, 55 to 45 percent.
“Through the agreements reached with the UAW, John Deere would have invested an additional $3.5 billion in our employees, and by extension, our communities, to significantly enhance wages and benefits that were already the best and most comprehensive in our industries,” said Marc A. Howze, a chief administrative officer for Deere. “This investment was the right one for Deere, our employees, and everyone we serve together. Even though it would have created greater competitive challenges within our industries, we had faith in our employees’ ability to sharpen our competitive edge. With the rejection of the agreement covering our Midwest facilities, we will execute the next phase of our Customer Service Continuation Plan.”
Brian Rothenberg, a spokesperson for the UAW, said “The strike against John Deere and company will continue as we discuss next steps with the company. Pickets will continue and any updates will be provided through the local union.”
Day 21: Wednesday, Nov. 3
Deere called the rejected offer the company's "last, best, and final offer."
Hartmann said the company was proud of its six-year contract offer, which would have boosted pay and benefits for about 10,100 UAW workers. She said Deere informed the UAW that “the ball is in their court.”
“We will be communicating with the UAW and there are conversations happening to make sure that that is understood and clear. We can move toward our first goal to get employees back to work," Hartmann said. "This is certainly a tough time of year for everyone but we would like to see everyone back to work.”
A union member at Davenport Works said the offer didn't have everything, but probably would have been ratified if it was Deere's first offer. “I think the company got a little greedy there with that first tentative agreement, and it backfired and it ended up putting us out on strike because the agreement was so awful,” the worker said. “That kind of galvanized a lot of people's frustration for the last 20 years.”
Union members were also unhappy with the estimated increased wages tied to inflation through cost of living adjustments, especially considering the company’s record profits in the past year. Workers want better pensions and guaranteed health care benefits in retirement, one said. Workers were concerned about gap if they retired before they were eligible for Medicare.
Deere said salaried workers would continue to step into plant roles to keep production moving.
Day 22: Thursday, Nov. 4
The UAW said Deere told media outlets the agreement was its final and best offer before it told that to unions.
“In our bargaining sessions with the UAW, both parties made numerous proposals in working to negotiate an agreement.," Hartmann said when asked about the accusation. “That meant both sides made concessions and compromises. In reaching the second tentative agreement with the union’s bargaining committee, we advised that the overall value of the compensation and benefits package were as far as we were willing to go.”
The National Labor Relations Board requires an employer and unions to actively negotiate on employment terms “until they agree on a labor contract or reach a standoff or 'impasse.'” An impasse is defined as a total breakdown of the bargaining process that occurs after good-faith negotiations and exhausted perspectives, according to the NLRB.
No formal process exists to declare an impasse, said Paul Iversen, labor expert at the University of Iowa’s Labor Center. Both parties have to not be willing to make any additional offers, but if one party creates a new proposal, the other party is obligated to hear it. Hartmann said Deere and the UAW were still communicating.
Iversen and Matt Pappas, an employment lawyer, said the terminology used by Deere — “last, best and final offer” — is considered a term of art in negotiations.
In labor relations, it typically indicates a company has reached an impasse, according to Iversen. Sometimes employers use the language as a precursor to arguing toward an impasse.
Iversen said if the UAW indeed found out about Deere’s final offer first through the media rather than at the bargaining table, it could potentially qualify as bad-faith bargaining depending on the circumstances.
Day 23: Friday, Nov. 5
As workers head into their fourth weekend on strike, some are preparing for an informational picket Monday outside of the John Deere World Headquarters in Moline. Workers will gather outside One John Deere Place at noon.
“The company has waged war against our membership and its families, it's time to unite our brothers and sisters and all locals world wide,” the announcement read. “This is our last stand. We need you.”
The picket is not sanctioned by the UAW, and leaders urged members scheduled for official strike duties to attend to those first.