Steel Products

Striking UAW Members at Deere Vote Down Tentative Labor Pact (Again)

Written by Michael Cowden

United Auto Workers (UAW) members at John Deere have again rejected a tentative labor pact agreed to by union and company negotiators.

Approximately 55% of UAW members voted to reject the proposed six-year labor agreement. Only 45% voted in favor of it.

argumentThat’s a better reception than the one received by an initial tentative contract that was rejected by 90% of union members. But a majority of union members voting against the new deal means that the UAW remains on strike.

“The strike against John Deere and Co. will continue as we discuss next steps with the company,” UAW headquarters said in a statement. “Pickets will continue, and any updates will be provided through the local union.”

A previous six-year contract between the UAW and Deere expired on Oct. 1 but had been extended pending ongoing negotiations. The union set a strike deadline for Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 11:59 p.m. and has been on strike since then.

The strike at the Moline, Ill.-based heavy equipment manufacturer impacts more than 10,000 workers at 14 facilities – most of them in the Midwest.

John Deere blasted the latest rejection.

“Through the agreements reached with the UAW, John Deere would have invested an additional $3.5 billion in our employees, and by extension, our communities, to significantly enhance wages and benefits that were already the best and most comprehensive in our industries,” said Marc A. Howze, Group President, Lifecycle Solutions and Chief Administrative Officer for Deere. “Even though it would have created greater competitive challenges within our industries, we had faith in our employees’ ability to sharpen our competitive edge.”

The company in the meantime continues to rely on salaried employees to maintain operations, a company spokeswoman said.

Deere is famous for its iconic green tractors and combines. Equipment manufacturers such as Deere are also big consumers of steel – not only of flat products such as sheet and plate but also of value-added long products such as special bar quality (SBQ) steel.

Tentative agreements are reached between union and company negotiators, but they must be voted on and ratified by a majority of union members before they go into effect.

Rank-and-file members felt that the tentative agreement did not offer enough in terms of wage increases or retirement and healthcare benefits – especially in the context of a labor shortage and a sharply higher workload.

It is unusual for rank-and-file members to repeatedly reject contracts that have received the seal of approval from union brass.

By Michael Cowden,

Michael Cowden

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