John Deere workers reject contract, set strike

By Terry Evans
October 25, 2021
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

By a 90% margin, over 10,000 United Auto Workers union members at more than a dozen John Deere plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas rejected a contract the agricultural-implements company bosses and union officials had agreed on. The union set a deadline of midnight Oct. 13 to set up strike picket lines, unless a new agreement is reached.

“The worst part is you get a 12% raise over six years. That amounts to 2% a year,” UAW member Paul Ganske in Iowa told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier as he cast his ballot. “They brought back the cost-of-living clause, but it never kept up with the cost of living. At Fareway this week bacon was $8.99 a pound. You gotta make more money if you got to pay those prices.”

Ganske, above, said he voted early, then held up a sign in the busy parking lot where ballots were cast, urging fellow unionists to “Vote no.”

Welder Marty Carter told the Des Moines Register he voted against the contract because it would deepen divisions between new hires and veteran workers. John Deere workers have already been saddled with a two-tier retirement system. The rejected contract includes a three-tier system, with new hires ineligible for a company pension, only offering a 401(k) savings scheme.

The company has “bullied the UAW around and got away with it. It’s time we stood up,” said Diana Swartz, an assembler for four years. The contract would raise her pay by only 74 cents, to $21.43 an hour. This year company profits will be at least 61% higher than their previous record year, estimates the Register.

Workers had voted for a temporary extension of the current contract when it expired Oct. 1. As the Militant goes to press talks between the union and company continue.