As the strike at John Deere looms, workers in Iowa say shifts will be canceled



Faced with the looming threat of a United Auto Workers strike, Deere & Co. managers told workers at factories across Iowa not to come on Wednesday, the workers told the Des Moines Register.

With a midnight deadline for a union agreement, they said managers had ordered third-shift workers in Waterloo not to report for work at the usual 11pm start time. Chris Laursen, a painter at the Ottumwa plant, said the company instructed second shift workers not to come on Wednesday, and workers at Des Moines Works in Ankeny said their 3:30 p.m. shifts had also been canceled been.

UAW International spokesman Brian Rothenberg said union officials had not received formal notification of the canceled shifts and could not confirm the company canceled them.

Workers overwhelmingly voted on Sunday to reject a proposed pact Deere made with UAW leaders, and the UAW told Deere that a strike would begin Thursday if the two sides fail to reach a new, tentative deal could.

Deere officials declined to comment on Wednesday.

Following Sunday’s vote, the company issued a statement stating: “John Deere remains fully committed to continuing the collective bargaining process to better understand our employees’ points of view. In the meantime, our business will be as normal continued. “

In addition to plants in Ankeny, Ottumwa and Waterloo, the UAW represents Deere workers in Davenport and Dubuque, as well as Illinois and Kansas. The Waterloo Works are Deere’s largest with approximately 3,000 members. The company employs more than 6,000 people across Iowa, making it one of the state’s largest industrial employers.

Strike would be the first against Deere since 1986

UAW Local 450, which represents Deere workers in Ankeny, posted a strike plan on their Facebook page showing that if the strike starts early Thursday, workers will picket the factory. The union also plans to go on strike at Deere’s Moline, Illinois factory 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the two sides reach an agreement.

Approximately 10,100 employees in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas work under a Deere contract that expires Friday.

Workers have not struck Deere since 1986. That year, it took 163 days for the two sides to reach an agreement.

This year, the proposed six-year contract, which Deere employees turned down on Sunday, would have raised wages and strengthened pension payments for current employees, while removing traditional pensions for new hires.

After 90% of members voted against the contract, UAW officials said the union team would negotiate with Deere on a second proposal. There was no word on Wednesday about the progress of the talks.

More: After rejecting the contract, Iowa Deere employees say they are ready to leave as the strike deadline looms

Workers said there were signs of the impending strike at plants in the Iowa area on Wednesday.

Jimmy Hyde, tool and mold maker at Deere’s Tractor, Cab & Assembly Operations facility in Waterloo, said the managers asked employees to clean their lockers and remove their locks from their cabinets and tool boxes. A worker sent the registry a photo that shows yellow tape with the inscription “closed” via a sign outside a Waterloo facility.

“It looks like we won’t be here (Thursday),” said Hyde.

Dave Schmelzer, a quality control inspector at the company’s warehouse in Milan, Ill., Said managers read a list of things to talk about to employees on Wednesday. Claims by Deere in the document made available to the registry include: his wages are “the best in the business,” and the denied agreement did not prompt employees to make concessions.

“Our products are the best,” says the memo. “Our people are the best. And our compensation is the best … and it should get better.”

Other workers provided the register with a photo of a. to disposal Flyer They said the factory managers, distributed on Tuesday, pointed out the positive aspects of the contract, which the workers rejected. The new six-year contract would have immediately increased wages by 5% or 6%, depending on the position. It would have allowed a 3% increase in 2023 and 2025 as well.

The company would have changed its retirement plan formula to give employees with 25 years of experience an additional $ 100 each month when they retire. Deere also planned to offer retirees annual lump-sum payments of between $ 20,000 and $ 50,000 for five years, depending on how long the employees had worked for the company.

At the same time, Deere would have ended its contractual retirement plan for any employee hired after November 1 and instead offered an expanded 401k program.

Negotiations take place as Deere makes record profits for this fiscal year that ends in November. The company’s CEO, John May, received $ 15.6 million in 2020, a 160% increase from 2019 after Deere met certain performance targets.

Like many manufacturers, Deere is struggling to hire enough manpower and source enough parts to fill orders. During an investor call in August, CFO Ryan Campbell said the company had already filled its available planter and sprayer manufacturing space by the end of fiscal 2022 – in 13 months.

Some employees have told the registry that they are especially motivated to go on strike after working at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the company owes them.

“The whole nation will be watching us,” Laursen, an employee of the Ottumwa factory, told the register on Monday. “If we stand here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it will make a difference to the entire manufacturing industry. Let’s do it. Don’t be intimidated.”

More: With the current contract expiring on Friday, UAW members are turning down a new deal with John Deere

Tyler Jett covers jobs and economics for the Des Moines Register. Reach him below [email protected], 515-284-8215, or on Twitter at @LetsJett.

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