Deere workers in Colorado agree to contract, but around 10,000 are still on strike

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Most Deere & Co. workers on Tuesday rejected a contract offer that would have given them a 10% raise and decided to stay on strike in hopes of getting a better deal.

The increases in the new deal struck over the weekend were twice as big as the initial offer that members of the United Auto Workers rejected last month, but those increases and improved benefits have failed. not enough to end the strike that began on October 14. The new agreement would also have provided for a ratification bonus of $ 8,500, preserved a retirement option for new employees, made workers eligible for health insurance earlier and maintained their health insurance coverage without a premium.

The disputed contract covers more than 10,000 Deere workers at 12 facilities in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. A smaller group of about 100 workers at two Deere facilities in Colorado and Georgia voted to agree to an identical deal.

The union said 55% of its members in the 12 major factories voted against the latest contract offer on Tuesday.

Last month, 90% of union members also rejected a contract proposal that called for immediate 5% increases for some workers and 6% for others, and 3% increases in 2023 and 2025.

Deere officials said they were disappointed the deal was rejected.

“Thanks to the agreements with the UAW, John Deere would have invested an additional $ 3.5 billion in our people and, by extension, in our communities, to dramatically improve wages and benefits that were already the best and most comprehensive across our industries, ”said Marc A. Howze, Executive Director of Deere. “This investment was right for Deere, our employees and everyone we serve together. “

The employees were reportedly paid between $ 22.13 an hour and $ 33.05 an hour under the latest rejected contract, depending on their position.

Tuesday’s vote means the first major strike since 1986 will continue at the farm and construction equipment manufacturer. Currently, many companies are facing labor shortages, making workers feel emboldened to demand more.

Douglas Woolam told the Des Moines Register he voted against the contract because he didn’t think it provided enough for the majority of workers at the bottom of the pay scale.

Woolam, who has worked for the company for 23 years in Moline, Ill., Said his family had worked for the company for 75 years, starting with his grandfather. He said his father retired from Deere with a higher salary than he currently earns.

Forklift operator Irving Griffin, who has worked at Deere for 11 years, told the newspaper on Monday that he plans to vote against the contract because he believes the company can offer even more.

Griffin said he believes workers should wait for a better deal even if workers only receive $ 275 a week from the union while they are on strike.

“Now is the best time to strike and take a stand for what we are really worth,” he told the newspaper.

Sales were strong this year at the Moline, Illinois-based company as the economy continued to recover from the pandemic. Deere predicted it would post record profits this year between $ 5.7 billion and $ 5.9 billion.

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