By Sarah Ahmed
More than 10,000 John Deere workers with United Auto Workers (UAW) went on strike early Thursday morning after the union failed to negotiate a contract that met workers’ demands. The strike covers seven plants in Iowa, four plants in Illinois, and one each in Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia.
The strike follows weeks of attempts by the UAW to bypass the worker’s demands and negotiate a weak contract that would result in a loss of overtime pay, retirement benefits, and health care benefits. Despite 99% of workers voting to authorize a strike in September, the UAW announced the now-rejected contract minutes after the previous contract expired at the end of the day on September 30. This past Sunday, over 90% of workers voted to reject the contract. Union officials failed to negotiate a new contract by the deadline of midnight on Wednesday and announced the strike to workers soon afterward.
In Ottumwa and Waterloo, Iowa, the local community has been delivering food and supplies to striking workers, and workers with the Teamsters Union and UPS have refused to cross the picket lines. Video on social media shows workers in Ottumwa cheering after a freight driver honors the picket and honks his horn in support.
According to reports on social media, Deere and Company have moved around 650 salaried office workers to work in their manufacturing facilities in an attempt to break the strike. The office workers, who mainly come from engineering and management positions, will be expected to perform the work that is ordinarily performed by skilled welders, machinists, and assemblers. Deere and Company expect the office workers to work twelve-hour shifts, six days a week and has threatened to fire the workers who refuse to cross the picket line. One office worker quoted on social media said, “I can guarantee that with our lack of skill and numbers, we will not be breaking the strike.”
In Waterloo, workers say that a masked driver in a black Chevy Equinox threw eggs at picketers, hitting at least one worker. Regardless of intimidation and attempts to break the strike, workers say that the energy is high and that they are enthusiastic to strike.
A worker in Des Moines told Tribune, “The International [union] surprised us, and it is something that needed to be done. We had the upper hand with record profits, lost the first round, but we came up swinging in the second round when we voted.”
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