Strike! 10,000 John Deere workers walk off job, taking advantage of Biden-era labor shortages

Workers at agriculture equipment giant are striking over the company's failure to offer sufficient salary raises and benefits.
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Grounds crew at the U.S. open operate John Deere mowers
Grounds crew at the U.S. open operate John Deere mowers
(Getty Images for John Deere)

Nearly 10,000 unionized workers at the agriculture equipment company Deere & Company — manufacturer of the popular John Deere mower — went on strike Thursday morning saying that the company failed to come up with a contract proposal that was satisfactory to the United Auto Workers union members.

"Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity, and establish fair work rules," said Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the union's agriculture department. "We stay committed to bargaining until our members' goals are achieved."

The union had issued a warning that the strike would begin at midnight Thursday if a satisfactory deal had not been reached.

The overwhelming majority rejected the contract deal presented by the company earlier this week, saying that it failed to raise salaries sufficiently and denied new employees a traditional pension. 

It has been three-and-a-half decades since the last John Deere strike, but workers have been feeling the pressure this year due to long pandemic hours and working for a company that is facing labor shortages, giving employees and their union a rare upper hand in negotiations.

"We've never had the deck stacked in our advantage the way it is now," a John Deere plant worker in Iowa told The New York Times.

"The whole nation's going to be watching us," the same worker, Chris Laursen, told the Des Moines Register. "If we take a stand here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it's going to make a difference for the whole manufacturing industry. Let's do it. Let's not be intimidated." 

The contracts that workers are currently striking over include negotiations that cover 14 Deere plants across the country, including seven in Iowa, one in Kansas, one in Colorado, one in Georgia, and four in Illinois.