An offer they didn't refuse
About 10,000 unionized Deere & Co. workers voted to ratify a new six-year contract on Wednesday, ending a strike that began Oct. 14. It was the first strike at the farm and construction equipment manufacturer since 1986. The Deere workers rejected the first and second contract offers but accepted the third by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent, the United Auto Workers union said. Deere said work would resume immediately, starting with Wednesday's night shift.
"UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace," UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement Wednesday night. "We could not be more proud of these UAW members and their families."
The third and, according to Deere, final offer gave the workers an immediate 10 percent raise and $8,500 ratification bonus, 5 percent raises in the third and fifth year of the contract, and 3 percent lump payments in the second, fourth, and sixth year. It also preserves a pension option for new hires and makes workers eligible for the negotiated no-premium health insurance sooner. This offer was a significant improvement over the first but similar to the second offer, only with "modest modifications" to the formula Deere uses to calculate bonus pay, UAW said.
Deere is expected to report record annual profits of $5.7 billion to $5.9 billion later this month, and along with higher pay, the company's workers said they wanted recognition for the long hours they labored, masked, to make "essential" farm and construction equipment during the pandemic. Their strike came to symbolize a resurgence of labor activism in a labor market where workers have more leverage.
UAW workers at a Volvo Trucks factory in Virginia secured better pay and health benefits earlier this year after rejected three contract offers, The Associated Press reports, and some 1,400 workers at Kellogg's have been on strike since early October. Union workers at Nabisco and Frito-Lay recently returned to work after securing better pay and benefits, The Washington Post adds.