Last week over 10,000 employees of the farm and construction equipment manufacturer Deere & Company announced the first strike in over 35 years after failing to agree upon a new contract with the company. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union announced the strike on Thursday morning, and it will impact 14 plants primarily in Illinois and Iowa that manufacture John Deere equipment.
'Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules. We stay committed to bargaining until our members' goals are achieved,' said Chuck Browning, Vice President and Director of the UAW's Agricultural Implement Department.
Deere & Company is the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer with a market capitalization of over $100 billion and employs about 27,500 people in the United States and Canada. The union workers are seeking higher pay, improved benefits, and better working conditions. The current proposed contract would have offered immediate wage increases of 5 to 6 percent for all workers, and subsequent 3 percent raises in both 2023 and 2025.
Workers rejected the contract renewal proposal by Deere & Company, noting that it did not provide adequate pay increases. 'John Deere is committed to a favorable outcome for our employees, our communities, and everyone involved,' said Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company in the company's public response. 'We are determined to reach an agreement with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries. We will keep working day and night to understand our employees' priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running for the benefit of all those we serve.'
Workers across many industries are demanding wage higher pay as living costs rise. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported its Consumer Price Index for August 2021 rose 5.4% year over year, a 13-year high. Main upward pressure came from the cost of shelter, food, new vehicles, and energy. Two Federal Reserve officials noted last week that inflation may be more persistent than originally anticipated because supply chain issues could continue through 2022 and 2023.
'The almost one million UAW retirees and active members stand in solidarity with the striking UAW members at John Deere. 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 noted in a statement announcing the strike.
Over 10,000 members at John Deere locations set up pickets. 'Pickets have been set up and our members are organized and ready to hold out and fight for a contract they believe meets their needs,' said Ron McInroy, director of UAW Region 4. 'Our members and their families appreciate the community support they have already gotten. Strikes are not easy, but some things are worth fighting for.'
The massive strike for John Deere comes during a time of supply chain challenges that are raising farm and construction equipment prices. The same semiconductor shortages plaguing the automotive industry are also impacting heavy equipment manufacturing. Prices for new and used farm and construction equipment have risen sharply over the past year due to the combination of lower production, higher demand and higher input costs. Many equipment dealers have noted trouble sourcing both new and used equipment.