John Deere green gets back to work

John Deere is back to work. Photo by Troy Bishopp

by Troy Bishopp

ANKENY, IOWA – Jason Aldean’s song is back in play: “You can take a ride on my big green tractor” again.

The 2021 John Deere strike that began Oct. 14, which involved about 10,000 employees for John Deere, is over. The United Auto Workers, which represents the workers from a dozen Midwest Deere & Co. factories, announced on Nov. 17 that its members had voted 61% to 39% in favor of the six-year deal that includes an $8,500 ratification bonus, an immediate 10% increase in wages with further increases over the life of the six-year agreement, as well as other benefits.

Both parties claimed a positive harvest: “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. “We could not be prouder of these UAW members and their families.”

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

Deere Chair 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 … John Deere’s success depends on the success of our people. Through our new collective bargaining agreements, we’re giving employees the opportunity to earn wages and benefits that are the best in our industries and are groundbreaking in many ways … Together, our future is bright.”

Despite the new contract celebration, the Des Moines Register reported the head negotiator for the Des Moines Local UAW 450, Curtis Templeman, died of COVID-19. “He fought through what he thought was ‘the sniffles’ to finish these negotiations,” the union reported. “I don’t know that I’ve seen [a] more [selfless] act … He pushed through to make sure he served the brothers and sisters that elected him … Our thoughts and prayers go out to Curtis Templeman’s family and his John Deere Des Moines Works coworkers.”