One day after workers at the agriculture equipment maker Deere & Company voted down a second contract proposal, the company said Wednesday that the proposal was its best and final offer and that it had no plans to resume bargaining.
Nearly 10,000 workers rejected the contract, prolonging a strike that began in October. This was after workers based in Iowa and Illinois had rejected an earlier agreement negotiated under the United Automobile Workers union.
After Bloomberg reported it, the company confirmed its position via email. A U.A.W. spokesperson said that the union’s negotiating team was continuing “to discuss next steps.” spokesman said only that the union’s negotiating team was continuing “to discuss next steps.”
Marc A. Howze, a senior Deere official, said in a statement Tuesday night that the agreement would have included an investment of “an additional $3.5 billion in our employees, and by extension, our communities.”
“With the rejection of the agreement covering our Midwest facilities, we will execute the next phase of our Customer Service Continuation Plan,” the statement continued, alluding to Deere’s use of salaried employees to run facilities where workers are striking.
Many workers had complained that wage increases and retirement benefits included in the initial proposal were too weak given that the company — known for its distinctive green-and-yellow John Deere products — was on pace for a record of nearly $6 billion in annual profits.
According to the union’s summary, wage increases under the most recent proposal would have been 10% this year and 5% in the third and fourth years. Employees would have received lump sum payments equal to 3 percent of their annual salary during each of the even years in the six-year contract.
That was up from earlier proposed wage increases of 5 or 6 percent this year, depending on a worker’s labor grade, and 3 percent in 2023 and 2025.
The most recent proposal included traditional pension benefits to future employees as well as a postretirement health care fund that was seeded with $2,000 per year of service.
Chris Laursen A worker at the John Deere Ottumwa plant in Iowa, who was the president of his local until recently, said that he voted for the new agreement after having voted to reject the previous one.
“We have the support of the community, we have the support of workers all around the country,” Mr. Laursen said. “If we turned down a 20 percent increase over a six-year period, substantial gains to our pension plan, I’m afraid we would lose that.”
But Mr. Laursen said he still had concerns about the vagueness of the company’s commitment to improving its worker incentive plan, and such concerns appeared to weigh on his co-workers, 55 percent of whom voted to reject the newer contract.
Matt Pickrell from Iowa said that some of his co-workers were skeptical of the second proposal. They wanted a greater initial increase than what the company offered.
Pickrell stated that he had also voted against the original agreement, but voted for the newer one due to the improvements in retirement benefits.
Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communications Workers of America, said the second “no” vote could indicate that members felt that the strike was working and that further gains were possible, despite the company’s declaration that it was finished bargaining.
“They’re saying what they believe — their feelings are hurt,” Mr. Cohen said of Deere. “But what are they going to do about it? They’re not going to get the workers back.”
Mr. Cohen stated that Deere employees were among a small number of workers in America who could bargain on a large scale. This, along with their standing in the communities where the plants are located, gave them significant leverage.
The Deere work stoppage was part of a nationwide strike that erupted last month. This included more than 1,000 Kellogg workers and more than 2,000 hospital workers upstate New York.
According to Cornell University data, more than 25,000 workers quit their jobs in October, compared to an average of 10,000 for each of the three previous months.
Source: NY Times