More than 10,000 unionized John Deere workers are on strike as of the night of October 13, 2021, after rejecting a contract proposal from the farm manufacturing company, marking the largest U.S. strike in two years.
Members of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers (UAW) union say they are striking against Deere & Company, the corporation that makes the John Deere brand of products, for higher wages, improved retirement and healthcare benefits, and a better work environment.
The strike deadline was announced earlier this week after union members overwhelmingly voted down a tentative agreement reached between the union and the company, with 90% rejecting the proposal. “Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the UAW’s Agricultural Implement Department, said in a statement. The company said in a statement that it is “determined to reach an agreement with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position.”
While John Deere’s profits grew 60% in recent years, including a 160% salary increase for its CEO during the pandemic, workers say their wages have been cut, Good Morning America reported. In the third quarter of 2021 alone, John Deere reported a net income of $1.6 billion, and forecasted full-year earnings of up to $5.9 billion. Workers hired after 1997 have also seen their out-of-pocket health care costs rise, LaborNotes reports, and have lower pensions than those workers hired before 1997. “UAW John Deere members have worked through the pandemic after the company deemed them essential, to produce the equipment that feeds America, builds America and powers the American economy,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement.
The strike includes more than 10,000 workers at 14 facilities. It’s the largest strike in the U.S. in two years, since nearly 50,000 UAW members were on strike against General Motors for six weeks in 2019, but it’s just one in a series of labor actions by workers across the country amid the turmoil of the pandemic. (CNN reports that the U.S. Labor Department says the number of strikes this year is actually fewer than the same period in 2019, before COVID-19. Still, workers have continued to call out labor practices, even quitting in droves, after working throughout the pandemic.)
Last week, more than 1,000 Kellogg workers went on strike, and workers with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents some 60,000 film and television employees, overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike. On October 11, 24,000 Kaiser Permanente workers also voted to authorize a strike over pay and working conditions in the health sector, and 2,000 hospital workers in Buffalo have been striking since October 1.