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Most Deere workers reject contract offer from tractor maker

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 11, 2021

Wheels are attached as workers assemble a tractor at John Deere’s Waterloo, Iowa, assembly plant in April 2019. More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike Thursday.  (Associated Press)
Wheels are attached as workers assemble a tractor at John Deere’s Waterloo, Iowa, assembly plant in April 2019. More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike Thursday. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

MOLINE, Ill. — The vast majority of United Auto Workers union members rejected a contract offer from Deere & Co. Sunday that would have delivered at least 5% raises to the workers who make John Deere tractors and other equipment.

“The tentative agreement reached by the UAW and John Deere was rejected this evening by a majority of 90% of the membership,” UAW Vice President Chuck Browning said in a statement Sunday night.

Negotiators will return to the bargaining table Monday to try and work out a new deal to cover more than 10,000 workers at 14 plants across the United States, including seven in Iowa and four in Illinois. The union set a strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials at the Moline, Illinois-based company said operations will continue as normal in the meantime. Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere, expressed disappointment that the offer was rejected.

“After weeks of negotiations, John Deere reached tentative agreements with the UAW that would have made the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in our industries significantly better for our employees,” Morris said. “John Deere remains fully committed to continuing the collective bargaining process in an effort to better understand our employees’ viewpoints.

The proposed contract would have delivered immediate 5% raises for some workers and 6% raises for others depending on their positions within Deere’s factories. The pact also called for 3% raises in 2023 and 2025.

The contract talks come as strong sales this year helped Deere report $4.68 billion net income for the first nine months of its fiscal year, which was more than double the $1.993 billion it reported a year ago.

The company is expecting to earn between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this fiscal year.

The membership’s rejection also comes after UAW-represented workers at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia went on strike and rejected three tentative contract offers last spring before ratifying the third offer on a revote.

The workers ended up with better pay and lower-cost health benefits. The strike and multiple rejections of contracts agreed to by union leaders showed that workers are emboldened by a nationwide shortage of employees that’s affecting nearly all industries.

Shares of Deere & Co. stock declined less than 1% in midday trading on Monday.

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