10,000 John Deere Workers Strike THREE WEEKS at Midwest Plants
A top John Deere executive said the world’s largest farm equipment manufacturer will look to hire strikebreakers or import equipment from factories it operates abroad as a strike by 10,000 workers takes a third week.
Workers on strike at 12 Midwest factories, members of the United Auto Workers union, are demanding higher wages. On Tuesday, the union rejected the company’s “best and final offer.”
The union’s rejection of the deal has prompted the company to embark on its “customer service continuation plan,” Marc Howze, chief administrative officer of Deere & Co. CNN Business.
‘We want to keep those agreements.’
Howze confirmed that the company is “exploring” whether it will use the 59 factories it operates outside the country. He also said the company is looking to hire replacement workers by the hour.
“All options are on the table to determine what to do as we move forward,” he said.
More than 100,000 Deere & Co employees are in their third week of strike as they continue to demand higher wages as the company hits record net income of $5.7 to $5.9 billion
John Deere workers pecking outside John Deere Davenport Works in Iowa. More than 10,000 John Deere workers began their strike at 11:59pm on Wednesday
Deere & Co is the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural machinery
Both options may not be fully efficient due to the extensive shortage of supply chains, caused in part by shipping container delays, and the current staff shortage in the country.
“The strike against John Deere and Company will continue as we discuss next steps with the company,” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement. “Pikets will continue and any updates will be provided through the local union.”
If the strike continues at the world’s largest farm equipment manufacturer, it could affect the harvest and food sector.
While the company is exploring its options and has executives working almost around the clock, the strike has not negatively impacted the company’s stock value.
In fact, Deere & Co shares have continued to rise since the UAW strike began. On October 14, Deere & Co closed the day at USD 329.77 and on Friday at USD 354.88.
The workers of Deere & Co. began their strike on October 14, the first major strike at the farm machinery giant in more than three decades.
The strike demanding higher wages comes as workers use their increased power in a tight labor market to demand a larger share of the profits of successful companies.
The UAW members have rejected two preliminary deals from the company since their strike began last month
Deere CEO John May made nearly $16 million last year, 220 times more than the average employee at the company
Deere, which will report annual results in late November, has forecast record net income of $5.7 billion to $5.9 billion, and workers think they can take advantage of the national labor shortage to demand that the company share the wealth.
Employees are upset that Deere CEO John May, who last year made nearly $16 million in his first year in the position, is earning 220 times the average company salary of $70,743.
United Auto Workers, the union that represents Deere workers, had said its members would resign if no deal is struck by Oct. 20.
The union’s vast majority rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would bring 5 percent pay increases for some workers and 6 percent pay increases for others at the Illinois company known for its signature green tractors.
“The nearly one million UAW retirees and active members stand in solidarity with the standout UAW members at John Deere,” said UAW President Ray Curry.
Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere, said the company is “committed to benefiting our employees, our communities and everyone involved.” He said Deere wants an agreement that would improve the economic position of all employees.
“We will continue to work day and night to understand our employees’ priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running in the interest of everyone we serve,” Morris said.
Deere, with approximately 27,500 employees in the United States and Canada, had previously said its operations would continue as normal.
The strike comes in the middle of the US corn and soybean harvest season, at a time when farmers are struggling to find parts for tractors and combines.
The last strike against Deere by the UAW was in 1986, when workers were out for 163 days.
35 years have passed since the last major strike at Deere, but workers have been encouraged to demand more this year after working long hours during the pandemic and as companies face labor shortages.
United Auto Workers picket Thursday at John Deere Des Moines Works in Ankeny, Iowa. Deere workers’ strike started at midnight
Deere & Co shares rose from $329.77 on Oct. 14 to $354.88 on Friday during the three-week strike
“Our members at John Deere are on strike for the ability to earn a decent income, retire with dignity, and establish fair work rules,” said Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the agricultural equipment division of the United States. UAW. “We remain committed to negotiations until our members’ goals are met.”
A handful of workers began forming a picket line outside the company’s factory in Milan, a western Illinois city near the Iowa border, about 15 minutes after the strike deadline last month.
The union dropped off a metal barrel and firewood to keep workers warm in preparation for a demonstration expected to last 24 hours a day, the Quad-City Times reported.
Workers started work at several other Deere plants on the morning of October 14—including the major facility in Waterloo, Iowa—around the time the first shift would normally arrive.
Chris Laursen, who works as a painter at Deere, told the Des Moines Register before the strike it could make a significant difference.
“The whole country will be watching us,” Laursen told the newspaper. “If we stand up here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it will make a difference to the entire manufacturing industry. Let’s do it. Let’s not be intimidated.’
35 years have passed since the last major strike at Deere, but workers were encouraged to demand more this year after working long hours during the pandemic
Strikers are expected to remain on the picket line 24 hours a day until Deere relents
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said workers currently have a lot of leverage to negotiate with because of ongoing staff shortages.
“Right now in the US, the workforce is in a very good position to negotiate, so now is a good time to strike,” Goss said.
Earlier this year, another group of UAW representatives went on strike at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia, getting better pay and cheaper health benefits after turning down three preliminary contract offers.
The contracts under negotiation relate to 14 Deere plants, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois and one in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.
Contract talks at the Moline, Illinois-based company were underway as Deere & Co expects record profits between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year.
The company reported strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment throughout the year.
Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson said those gains give Deere the means to come to terms with employees.
“They can afford to settle this matter on much more favorable terms for the union and still maintain very strong profitability,” Swenson said.
The strike was called in the midst of the US corn and soybean harvest season, at a time when farmers are struggling to find parts for tractors.
Deere’s manufacturing facilities are a major contributor to the economy, so local officials hope a strike will be short-lived as it will have an immediate impact as striking workers cut spending.
“We definitely want to see our economy stabilize and grow after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati told the Quad-City Times. ‘Hopefully these parties can come to a solution quickly.’
Swenson said the strike’s impact could spread further if companies supplying Deere plants are forced to lay off workers.
Deere will thus come under pressure from suppliers and from customers who need parts for their Deere equipment to handle the strike quickly.
And Swenson said Deere will be concerned about losing market share if farmers decide to buy from other companies this fall.
“There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Deere to get closer to union demands,” Swenson said.