United Auto Workers (UAW) members rejected a second six-year contract from John Deere on Tuesday, meaning they will remain on strike.
More than 10,000 UAW members—a bulk of whom are in Iowa—have been on strike since Oct. 14 in a showdown with the multinational manufacturer over wages, benefits, retirement benefits, improved working conditions, and more.
The contract was rejected by 55% of the members nationally; however, 71% of Local 838 members in Waterloo—which represents about 3,000 workers—rejected the offer.
One Waterloo worker, who voted “no,” told the Waterloo Courier, the contract was like “dangling a carrot.”
Douglas Woolam, who works at a Deere facility in Moline, Ill., told the Des Moines Register he voted “no” because the contract did not offer the same level of benefits members of his family received when they worked for Deere, and the higher-pay scale would have limited reach.
Deere eliminated health-care benefits for retirees during the 1997 negotiations when the company switched to a two-tier wage and benefit system for pre- and post-1997 employees.
“I’m not thinking about me,” Woolam told the Register. “I’m thinking about people behind me. My dad thought about people behind him. My aunt thought about people behind her. And my grandfather thought about people behind him.”
According to the contact summary, members would receive a 10% general wage increase this year followed by 5% raises in years three and five. During years two, four, and six, members would receive 3% percent lump-sum payments.
It would also include cost-of-living allowances (COLA) and a taxable $8,500 ratification bonus, a $5,000 increase from the previous offer. The former offer included a 5% pay increase for the first year and 3% percent increases during alternate years, but excluded COLA.
The previous contract offer prevented new hires from being able to receive a pension, something that was amended in the second offer. In the second offer, current and future employees can choose between the pension or a 401K plan with a 6% match from John Deere
Before the strike, Deere was in the midst of a record year in revenue and profits, according to its financial disclosures. The company was projected to make $5.6-$5.9 billion in net profit and had $32.6 billion in worldwide net sales and revenues for the first three quarters of fiscal year 2021.
Additionally, Deere ended 2020 with a cash balance of $7 billion and had a 135% increase in net income from 2020 to 2021.
In a release, Deere executive Marc A. Howze said the company will continue with the next phase of its “Customer Service Continuation Plan.” Howze also told Bloomberg News that the second contract was Deere’s “best and final offer.”
by Ty Rushing