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Deere & Co. workers are back to work after approving a new contract that delivers 10 percent raises immediately, ending a monthlong strike for more than 10,000 employees.
The United Auto Workers union said 61 percent of its members approved the deal — the third offer from Deere — even though this offer was strikingly similar to one that 55 percent of workers had rejected two weeks ago.
Workers at the Moline-based company and other unions have been emboldened to ask for more money this year because of the ongoing worker shortages and because workers didn't always feel appreciated while working long hours during the pandemic.
This latest proposal made only modest changes to the details of Deere's internal incentive pay plan. The new contract covers 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas where the iconic John Deere green agricultural and construction equipment is made.
After the last vote Nov. 2, Deere officials told the union not to expect the company to offer any more money, and Deere largely stuck to that promise in its latest offer, which it called its final one.
The workers had been on strike since Oct. 14. And in recent weeks, they have had to endure increasingly colder temperatures along the picket lines while trying to get by on the union's $275 in weekly strike pay or by finding another job.
"UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace," UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement.
Deere Chief Executive Officer John C. May said he is pleased that workers will be back on the job "building and supporting the industry-leading products which make our customers more profitable and sustainable."
In addition to the initial raises, this week's offer kept the 5 percent raises that were in the third and fifth years of the six-year deal and 3 percent lump sum payments in the second, fourth and sixth years of the deal.
The offer would also provide an $8,500 ratification bonus per employee, preserve a pension option for new employees, make workers eligible for health insurance sooner and maintain workers’ no-premium health insurance coverage.
What Deere did in this latest offer was tweak the complicated formula it uses to determine which workers receive bonuses based on whether their team hits certain productivity goals. The changes in the formula could make it easier for workers to qualify for the incentive pay, but there are some Deere workers who aren't eligible for the bonuses based on the job they do in the company's factories and warehouses.
The workers had been holding out for more from Deere, which has predicted it will report record annual profits between $5.7 bllion and $5.9 billion when it releases its earnings report later this month.
More than 90 percent of the workers rejected Deere's initial offer, but the second vote was much closer after the company essentially doubled the raises it was offering.
The strike had thrown several of Deere's businesses into turmoil.
Software engineers and computer programmers left their desks to assemble sprayers and combines in manufacturing plants instead. Serious delays in replacement parts threatened farmers, who rely on functional machines and speedy repairs at the peak of harvest. Used farm equipment prices were hitting record highs.
But the strike this time was far shorter than the last. When Deere workers last picketed 35 years ago, the strike lasted 163 days.
Bloomberg and the Associated Press contributed to this report.