Deere workers approve 3rd contract offer, end strike

DETROIT (AP) – Workers at Deere & Co. on Wednesday approved a new contract that will offer immediate 10% increases and end a month-long strike for more than 10,000 employees.

The United Auto Workers union said 61% of its members approved the deal with the tractor manufacturer in their third vote, even though the offer was surprisingly similar to what 55% of workers rejected two weeks ago. .

Workers at Deere – and other unions – have been encouraged to ask for more this year due to the ongoing worker shortage and because workers haven’t always felt appreciated while working long hours during the pandemic.

This latest proposal made only modest changes to the details of Deere’s internal incentive compensation plan. The new contract covers 12 factories in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, where the company’s signature John Deere agriculture and green building equipment is manufactured in Moline, Illinois.

The company said work would resume Wednesday evening.

After the last vote on Nov. 2, Deere officials told the union not to expect the company to offer more money, and Deere largely kept that promise in its latest offer, which it made. qualified as a final.

The workers had been on strike since October 14. And in recent weeks, they’ve had to endure increasingly cold temperatures along the picket lines while trying to make do with the union’s $ 275 weekly strike pay or find another job.

“UAW John Deere members didn’t just come together, they seemed to unite the nation in a fight for fairness in the workplace,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement. Wednesday evening.

Deere CEO John C. May said he is thrilled that workers are back on the job “building and supporting the cutting edge products that make our customers more profitable and sustainable.”

In addition to the initial increases, this week’s offer retained the 5% increases that were in the third and fifth years of the six-year agreement and the 3% lump-sum payments in the second, fourth and sixth years of the agreement. The offer would also provide a ratification bonus of $ 8,500, preserve a retirement option for new hires, make workers eligible for health insurance sooner, and maintain their premium-free health insurance coverage.

What Deere did in this latest offering was tweak the complicated formula it uses to determine which workers receive bonuses based on their team meeting certain productivity goals. Changes to the formula could make it easier for workers to qualify for incentive pay, but some Deere workers are not eligible for bonuses based on the work they do in the company’s factories and warehouses.

Workers expected more from Deere, which predicted it would post record annual profits of between $ 5.7 billion and $ 5.9 billion when it releases its earnings report later this month. More than 90% of workers rejected Deere’s initial offer, but the second vote was much closer after the company essentially doubled the increases it was offering.

Another group of workers represented by the UAW went on strike earlier this year at a Volvo Trucks plant in Virginia and won better wages and lower-cost health benefits after rejecting three interim contract offers. Currently, around 1,400 Kellogg workers have been on strike since the start of last month at the company’s four US grain plants.

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Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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