Deere strike over, workers report back to work Thursday

John Deere union workers enter the UAW Hall in East Moline on Nov. 4 to vote on new proposed six year contract. CREDIT JOHN SCHULTZ

Striking UAW John Deere workers ratified a “landmark labor agreement” on Wednesday ending the first strike at the Moline-based equipment maker in 35 years.

In a statement on the national union’s website, the UAW reported that John Deere members ratified the six-year agreement by an overall vote of 61% to 39%. It marked the third time in five weeks that workers went to the polls to vote on a tentative contract agreement negotiated between the UAW and Deere.  

Deere Chairman and CEO John May said in a statement, “I’m pleased our highly skilled employees are back to work building and supporting the industry-leading products which make our customers more profitable and sustainable.”

In the national statement, UAW President Ray Curry thanked the members and families of UAW John Deere for their willingness to sacrifice. “UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace. We could not be more proud of these UAW members and their families.”

UAW Local 838 in Waterloo again rejected the offer, this time by a vote of 44% yes and 56% no, according to a post on the local’s Facebook page. Local 838 said first-shift employees should report at 7 a.m. to work on Thursday.  

Local 281 in Davenport reported that workers voted 77% in favor vs. 23% against and told workers the company would contact them about when to return to work. Local 434 in Moline reported 79% of their members voted in favor of the contract.

A posting on indicated that operations would resume with third shift Wednesday. 

Some 10,000 Deere union workers with the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America walked off the job on Oct. 14. The strike began after nearly 90% of the union’s members rejected the company’s initial contract offer. A second pact was voted down on Nov. 2 by about 55% of the striking UAW union workers.  

The latest contract proposal — which covers UAW workers  at 12 John Deere plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas — had been characterized by union leaders as the company’s “last, best and final offer.”  

The national UAW indicated that the approved agreement includes an $8,500 signing bonus; 20% increase in wages over the lifetime of the contract with 10% this year; return of Cost of Living adjustments; three 3% lump sum payments; enhanced options for retirement and enhanced Continuous Improvement Performance Plans, or CIPP, performance benefits. Health care remains the same for the life of the agreement.

“Our members’ courageous willingness to strike in order to attain a better standard of living and a more secure retirement resulted in a groundbreaking contract and sets a new standard for workers not only within the UAW but throughout the country,” Chuck Browning, Vice President of the UAW and director of the UAW Agricultural Implement department, said in the statement released Wednesday night. 

“The sacrifice and solidarity displayed by our John Deere members combined with the determination of their negotiators made this accomplishment possible. They have started a movement for workers in this country by what was achieved here today and they have earned the admiration and respect of all that strive for what is just and equitable in the workplace,” he added. 

UAW leaders had been mum about the specifics in the company’s third offer, except to say that it included “modest modifications” over the second proposed agreement.