Over 10,000 John Deere employees have gone on strike due to “years” of bad treatment.
Workers staged the country’s largest private-sector walkout in two years, claiming they were compelled to work overtime on a regular basis as the business earned record profits.
‘This isn’t just about statistics. It’s just as much about how people are treated,’ said one anonymous John Deere employee in Illinois who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution.
more than 10,000 production and warehouse employees at 14 John Deere strike facilities in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia, the latest in a wave of US labour unrest.
Employees, represented by nine locals of the United Auto Workers (UAW), voted 99 percent in favour of a strike authorization in September after receiving the first six-year contract proposal from John Deere.
This is the biggest private sector strike in the United States since the UAW began its action against General Motors two years ago. It also comes as more strikes are expected in the US, as well as widespread labour unrest in an economy already suffering from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Workers decisively rejected the preliminary contract deal presented by John Deere on October 10th, with a striking deadline set for Wednesday at 11.59 p.m. CT.
In 1997, workers took several concessions from John Deere in contract negotiations, including creating a two-tier system of employees, with workers hired after 1997 receiving fewer benefits, according to David Schmelzer, a quality control inspector at John Deere about 24 years at Milan, Illinois, and past head of a United Auto Workers Local 79.
“We made a sacrifice, and now we want our money back”. There’s no reason why we should stand aside and allow these corporations just totally abuse our labour for billions of dollars and fight tooth and nail not to pay us anything,” says one American worker.
When it comes to the upcoming union contract discussions, he claims John Deere spent months sending out messages, mailers, and employing supervisors to encourage workers to maintain existing perks, and the corporation is preparing paid employees to take the place of those on strike.
Workers have been compelled to work overtime on a regular basis throughout the epidemic, according to Schmelzer, with 10- to 12-hour days during the week and Saturdays.
During that period
John Deere has recorded record profits in 2021, with a $4.7 billion profit in the first three quarters of this year, compared to $3.5 billion in 2013. In the first nine months, the firm spent nearly $1.7 billion on stock buybacks and distributed $761 million in dividends to stockholders.
“A lot of what’s happened in the nation in the past several years has certainly made people more conscious of the gap between corporate and income inequality.” “It’s just enormous sums of corporate greed,” Schmelzer said. “The vast majority of people want a larger piece of this company’s success, which we’ve played a key role in.”
Prior to the outbreak, John Deere lay off hundreds of workers and restructured their staff, demoting many paid employees to lower-level jobs with lesser pay, blaming Trump’s trade battles with China and their effect on demand.
“It’s not just about the statistics. “How people are treated is just as important,” said a John Deere employee in Illinois who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. “Management respect is no longer a thing. The strain in the air is palpable. For a long time, everyone has been on edge. I’d raise my weld hood almost every day to hear workers and supervisors yelling at each other. They’ve assigned high-paid supervisors to select operators to keep an eye on them and bird hound them all day.”
After waves of layoffs that resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs, John Deere strike ratified the contract by less than 200 votes during the latest union contract talks in 2015. The last time John Deere strike went on strike was in 1986 when they went on strike for 163 days and were met with a lockout at other factories as a result of the company’s retaliation. The present walkout is the biggest in the private sector since hundreds of GM employees went on strike in September of this year.
Another John Deere employee in Illinois said
“It goes much deeper than simply not like a contract.” “It’s the culmination of years of pay stagnation, and it would have happened last contract if the layoff issue hadn’t occurred.”
Workers decisively voted against the current proposed contract, citing planned cutbacks to post-retirement healthcare, insufficient pay increases, and pension benefits that aren’t nearly as good as those received by John Deere employees prior to 1997. The retirement pension schemes for new employees would be replaced with a 401k.
“John Deere is completely committed to continuing the collective bargaining process in an attempt to better understand our employees’ views,” a spokesman for the company stated in response to the workers’ contract rejection. Our activities will continue as usual in the interim.”
Over 10,000 John Deere workers strike over ‘years’ of poor treatment