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John Deere strike ends with big gains for workers

Workers picket outside of John Deere Harvester Works facility in East Moline, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By Pete Levine ·

After five weeks on the strike line, more than 10,000 John Deere workers, members of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), voted 61% in favor of accepting John Deere’s offer that includes an immediate 10% raise, an $8,500 signing bonus, and other substantial annual increases.

In a Facebook post, AFSCME President Lee Saunders congratulated the workers on their new contract and applauded them for showing the courage to demand more from their employer.

“AFSCME congratulates the UAW Deere workers who approved a contract today ending their weekslong strike,” said Saunders. “By remaining steadfast and exercising their power, these essential workers won a fair contract that gives them the respect they deserve for all they have done to keep Deere running through the pandemic.”

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Members of AFSCME Council 61 were among AFSCME members across the country who joined picketing UAW workers at John Deere locations across the country throughout the strike. (Photo courtesy Council 61)

The workers, whose strike began on Oct. 14, had turned down proposed raises of 5% to 6%. Having lost power and ground in the 1990’s, while their employer has seen record profits and massive payouts for its executives, the John Deere workers struck as a wave of worker activism gripped the nation.

In addition to the John Deere workers, 60,000 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), as well as 18,000 AFSCME-affiliated United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) health care workers were poised to strike before agreements with their respective employers were reached.

Meanwhile, Kellogg cereal workers, members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) have been on strike since Oct. 5, while Alabama mine workers, who are members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), have been on strike since April.

AFSCME members from several states joined in solidarity with the striking UAW members. During the strike, one UAW member was killed in Illinois on his way to a strike, and a Des Moines UAW head negotiator died Thursday from COVID-19.

Saunders stressed that the outcome was a victory for all working people.

“This win … is yet another example of what we mean by the union difference: It’s the collective power that comes with standing together for a voice to make change in the workplace and our communities,” Saunders said. “The momentum we’re seeing across the country shows that when we organize, and when we stand together, we win.”

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