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John Deere narrowly avoids strike over 6-year worker contract

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Over the weekend, six weeks’ worth of negotiations between John Deere and its employees came down to the wire over a new labor agreement. The previous six-year master agreement covered 12 Deere facilities and was set to expire Oct. 1.​ Minutes after the agreement had expired, a tentative agreement had been reached, avoiding a strike. 

Workers told local media outlets that they were ready to strike if it came to that. At the beginning of negotiations, Deere was reportedly considering cuts to employee pay and health care benefits once the Sept. 30 contract expired. There are not yet firm details on the deal that was reached, though the current contract was extended for two weeks to allow time to vote on the new terms.

The tentative agreement between John Deere and the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) covers 10,100 production ​and maintenance employees. In addition, Deere and the UAW have reached a tentative agreement on a new six-year labor agreement covering nearly 100 production and maintenance employees at Deere parts facilities in Denver and Atlanta.

Because of this development, all Deere operations will continue as scheduled. However, the UAW will not release details of the tentative agreement until members at all John Deere locations have an opportunity to meet and review the terms of their proposed contract on Oct. 10.

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Image by dvande, Shutterstock

Chuck Browning, UAW Vice President and director of the Agricultural Implement Department, said the agreement contains significant economic gains and continues to provide the highest quality healthcare benefits in the industry. 

An Iowa-based TV station was told by one Deere worker that the employees sought better wages and retirement benefits, as well as lower-cost health care.

According to the Des Moines Register, John Deere has not experienced a strike since 1986, when employees sat out for 163 days during the farm crisis.

The facilities affected are:

  • Iowa — Davenport Works, Des Moines Works, Dubuque Works, Ottumwa Works, and Waterloo Works, including Tractor and Cab Assembly, Engine Works, and the Foundry.
  • Illinois — Harvester Works in East Moline, North American Parts Distribution Center in Milan, and the Seeding Group and Cylinder Division in Moline.
  • Kansas — Coffeyville Works.

Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company said, “Through this agreement, John Deere reinforces our longstanding commitment to provide employees the opportunities to earn the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in the agriculture and construction industries.”

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