Deere’s second contract proposal rejected by union members, ‘pickets will continue’

John Deere factory tour and testing in Augusta, Georgia. — Charles & Hudson/Flickr

Striking UAW members voted on Tuesday to reject a revised contract offer from Deere & Company.

“The strike against John Deere and Company will continue as we discuss next steps with the company,” according to a statement from the union following the vote. “Pickets will continue and any updates will be provided through the local union.”

More than 10,000 workers from Deere’s 14 production plants have been on strike since Oct. 14. Seven of Deere’s plants are located in Iowa, where over 6,000 Deere workers are striking in the largest labor action the state has seen in more than 30 years.

The new six-year contract offer from Deere addressed some of the issues that led 90 percent of UAW workers to reject its first proposed contract. The most notable change involved retirement benefits. In the first version of the contract the company excluded all new hires from the retirement system that has been in place since 1997, offering them enrollment in a 401(k) plan instead. The revised contract allowed new hires to choose either the existing retirement system or the 401(k) plan.

The new proposal was rejected by 55 percent of the union members in the vote on Tuesday.

Unlike the vote on the first contract offer, UAW locals in Iowa were divided on Tuesday. Locals in Des Moines, Ottumwa and Davenport voted to approve the contract, but the state’s two largest locals, Waterloo and Dubuque, voted overwhelmingly against it. In Waterloo, 71 percent of the workers voted to reject the contract, and in Dubuque, 64 percent voted against it.

“With the rejection of the agreement covering our Midwest facilities, we will execute the next phase of our Customer Service Continuation Plan,” Marc Howze, Deere’s chief administrative officer, said in a statement on Tuesday night. That plan involves using salaried employees to perform the work normally done by the striking UAW members.

Speaking to Bloomberg on Wednesday, Howze said Deere would not be continuing negotiation with the UAW, and would not be revising its last contract proposal.

“The agreement that we provided is frankly our best and final offer,” he said. “In order for us to be competitive we have gone as far as we’re gonna go.”

Prior to the strike, analysts had estimated the Deere & Company would make almost $6 billion in profits this year, eclipsing the record-setting $3.5 billion in profits it had in 2013.

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