After 35 years without a work stoppage, more than 10,000 workers at the large U.S. farm equipment manufacturer John Deere & Co. officially went on strike after negotiations in which they were offered wage increases between 5% and 6% failed.
“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” said Chuck Browning. He is the vice president and director of the UAW union’s Farm Implement Department, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Oct. 14.
Some workers argued that even as John Deere’s profits grew 61% percent in recent years and its CEO’s salary grew 160% during the pandemic, their wages had been cut.
Deere also expects record profits of between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year. It has also posted strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment in the same period.
The negotiations are of interest to workers at 14 other production plants, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois, and one in Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia.
Against this backdrop, Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said workers have a lot of bargaining leverage at this point because of the current labor shortage.
“Right now across the U.S., labor is in a very good strong position to bargain, so now is a good time to strike,” Goss opined.
Local officials hope this labor dispute will be resolved soon, as it would affect the economy when striking workers cut back on 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 resolution soon.”
For Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson, the negative impact of the strike could be further amplified if companies that supply Deere’s factories have to start laying off workers.
These elements would put pressure on Deere to resolve the strike as soon as possible, mainly when suppliers and customers who need parts for their equipment begin to complain.
This strike is being announced after about 1,400 unionized Kellogg’s workers went on strike in early October, which is ongoing, and unionized employees who make Oreos and other Nabisco products went on strike this summer through the end of September.
Also, 24,000 nurses and other health care workers tied to the Kaiser company went on strike.
Additionally, Hollywood could soon see approximately 60,000 movie and TV workers strike.
In all, at least 100,000 unionized employees—which includes those already mentioned—have voted to authorize strikes and are preparing to join the picket line unless they get more substantial collective bargaining agreements.