On November 17th, after being on strike for 35 days across 14 facilities in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Georgia and Colorado, 61% of the over 10,000 John Deere workers have voted to approve the third contract proposal. This agreement was very similar to the second contract proposal that was announced on October 30th, and was voted down by 55% of the voters. The latest proposal contained modest changes to the company’s incentive pay program for workers who met production targets. The strike was the first at John Deere in 35 years.
The contract that workers approved includes an $8.5 thousand ratification bonus and 5% raises in 2023 and 2025, with the contract expiring in 2027. John Deere can afford it; the company has recently made record profits and has pushed large concessions on its workforce over recent contracts, while working people are now facing the highest price inflation rate in over 31 years.
Towards the end of the strike, the disruption of production of farm equipment started to be felt in the international supply chain for equipment necessary for harvests.
Workers made sacrifices during the strike. One worker on the picket line was reported to have been killed by a car driven by a scab. Strikers lived on only $275 per week of strike pay. It’s worth noting how minuscule this expense of a total $13.75 million in strike pay was compared to the UAW’s strike pay fund of nearly $800 million. While the higher-ups within the union may not have had the intention of waging a real struggle, many workers did, voting against multiple contract proposals.
Workers at John Deere were right to stand up to the company and demand better. While they didn’t get everything that they deserved, they did show that it was possible to fight and refuse to accept what the company offered initially—and win!
The John Deere strike took place during a moment when tens of thousands of workers, including coal miners, nurses, other production workers and more were on strike throughout the United States. Imagine what is possible if we really used the power we have as working people when we stand up together as a whole!