Nathan Lugo/Unsplash
Green John Deere Tractor Field Nathan Lugo S S2 Cg2 Hz3 S8 Unsplash 615f04e5d04b4 61685789a4009

More Than 10,000 John Deere Workers Go on Strike

Oct. 14, 2021
The strike is the agricultural equipment manufacturer’s first since 1986.

In the latest and largest strike to hit manufacturing in recent months, more than 10,000 UAW-represented Deere & Co. workers officially went on strike at the stroke of twelve between October 13 and 14. Workers roundly rejected an October 1 UAW-negotiated contract with the tractor manufacturer, with 90% of members voting against the deal.

The strike will hit 14 of Deere & Co.’s U.S. locations. Half of those factories are in Iowa; the rest are in Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia.

The strike’s timing comes at an inopportune point for Deere & Co., which has already seen record profits this year. In August, the company predicted it would make between $5.6 and $5.9 billion in 2021, more than 60% higher than its previous full year earnings record set in 2013. The Des Moines Register reported that high prices for corn and soybeans drove up Deere profits in both years.

At the same time, Deere workers have expressed frustration with long hours worked during the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing labor shortages have not helped the situation for overworked employees or employers looking to remedy the situation.

The latest proposal from Deere would increase typical hourly wages from $33 to $40 an hour, according to Deere’s website, and would not increase healthcare costs to employees despite rising costs to the company to pay for it.

“We remain committed to hearing our employees’ priorities and continuing talks until the strike is resolved,” the company said in a statement.

Brad Morris, VP of labor relations at Deere, had previously praised the tentative agreement as one that “reinforces our longstanding commitment to provide employees the opportunities to earn the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in the agriculture and construction industries.”

But those wage increases are a pittance, according to workers, and a proposed change to pension policy has drawn opposition as well.

According to the Des Moines Register, the tentative agreement reached October 1 would end the company’s pension program for new hires and replace it with company contributions to a 401(k). In a similar case at a separate company, Kellogg strikers have objected to their employer’s plan to eliminate a pathway for less senior employees to receive a pension. 

Mitchell Smith, UAW director for Region 8, said in a statement that strikers are looking for “a better share of the pie” and acceptable benefits. “These are skilled, tedious jobs that UAW members take pride in every day,” he said.

The solid opposition by working members to the negotiated tentative agreement is reminiscent of UAW-represented Volvo Trucks workers in Virginia, who rejected three separate UAW contracts and struck for over a month.

About the Author

Ryan Secard | Associate Editor


Focus: Workforce and labor issues; machining and foundry management

Associate Editor Ryan Secard covers topics relevant to the manufacturing workforce, including recruitment, safety, labor organizations, and the skills gap. Ryan has written IndustryWeek's Salary Survey annually since 2021 and has coordinated its Talent Advisory Board since September 2023.

Ryan got started at IndustryWeek in August 2019 as an editorial intern and was hired as a news editor in 2020 before his 2023 promotion to associate editor, talent. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of Wooster.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!