On Tuesday, November 2nd, 10,000 John Deere workers in the United Auto Workers (UAW) union rejected a second tentative agreement to continue their strike which started on October 14.
In a vote of 55% “NO” to 45% “YES,” workers rejected a second offer that the company is calling its “last, best, and final offer.” This was a much closer vote than the first contract offer in October, in which 90% of workers voted against the proposal. While there were definite improvements in the second proposal compared to the first, including greater yearly wage increases during the course of the contract and improved retirement benefits, the majority of workers at John Deere believe they are strong enough to continue the fight and get more out of the company.
Among many things, workers that voted “NO” are demanding greater wage increases, as well as full pension and healthcare benefits for all workers upon retiring. This would counteract the “tier system” John Deere has implemented which gives greater benefits to higher seniority workers, and is a tactic bosses use to divide workers.
Many workers voted to accept the contract and go back to work and get their regular paychecks. It’s true that the recent history of the working class in the U.S. has not seen many successful fights against the bosses. This can certainly be disheartening, along with rising inflation, continuing threats from COVID, and other pressures.
But a majority saw all this and voted to continue the strike. Many clearly believe they still have leverage if they hold the line on this contract fight due to the strategic importance of John Deere’s machines in the agriculture industry. The timing seems good due to the labor shortage in the United States and the challenges with international supply chains to provide an alternative supply of the equipment they produce at John Deere. Reports from Bloomberg have documented how the strike at John Deere is contributing to certain agricultural industries falling behind in their production quotas due to a combination of the strike and problems in the global supply chain.
These workers are right to demand more! While the company has not released its financial reports for 2021, executives within John Deere have projected the company will end the year making almost 6 billion dollars in profits, while the CEO earned a 160% raise from 2020 to 2021! These profits were not created by the CEOs and managers, they were created by the workers who risked their health and even their lives by continuing to work during the pandemic.
We stand in solidarity with the John Deere workers continuing this fight. They are showing the kind of resolve we all need in our struggles against the bosses.