‘Sacrifice and Solidarity’ Pay Off

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Source: Common Dreams

Factory workers at John Deere officially ended their historic month-long strike late Wednesday by approving a six-year contract that includes an immediate 10% wage increase, reinstatement of a cost-of-living adjustment, and an $8,500 ratification bonus—provisions the United Auto Workers hailed as a major victory.

“They have started a movement for workers in this country by what was achieved here today.”

“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,” said Chuck Browning, vice president of the UAW, which represents the 10,000 employees who walked off the job last month to demand fair pay and benefits.

“The sacrifice and solidarity displayed by our John Deere members combined with the determination of their negotiators made this accomplishment possible,” Browning added. “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.”

The deal came after striking Deere workers—part of a broader upsurge in labor actions nationwide—rejected two previous contract offers as inadequate, particularly as company profits soared to record highs amid the pandemic and as CEO John May’s overall pay jumped to $15.6 million in 2020.

​”When you factor in the pandemic, being deemed essential workers, and in our case, having a company turning a record profit, the CEO giving himself a 160% raise, and giving a 17% dividend raise, we kinda feel like we’re left to kick rocks,” a striking UAW member told Labor Notes last month.

As union researcher and organizer Colleen Boyle recently noted, John Deere “could have paid each of its 69,600 worldwide employees an additional $142,000” with the money it handed to shareholders between fiscal year 2016 and the first nine months of fiscal year 2021.

According to UAW leadership, which angered rank-and-file members by endorsing an earlier tentative contract offer from management, the new contract contains “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 Pay Plan] performance benefits.”

“Healthcare remains the same for the life of the agreement,” added the union, which said Deere members ratified the deal by a vote of 61% to 39%.

HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson argued that while “plenty of Deere workers still wanted to hold out for better,” the new contract “seems leagues better” than the original Deere-UAW deal that led to the strike.

“That initial agreement, which included immediate raises of just 5% or 6%, was rejected by 90% of the membership in early October,” Jamieson noted.

UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInroy said in a statement late Wednesday that “our members stood together and did not waiver.”

“Members and their families put a lot on the line for these gains and the community support was overwhelming,” said McInroy. “I’d like to thank the John Deere members, their families, their leaders, and our bargaining team for standing firm and achieving these important gains.”

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