UAW strikes at John Deere amid national labor shortage

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT
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QUAD CITIES (KWQC) - A strike against John Deere comes at a turbulent time in the U.S. labor market. The workforce is scarce with over nine million job openings in the country according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

“That puts pressure on the employer to then come back to the table and maybe change some of the terms in the contract to make it more satisfactory for the employees. Everyone is overworked and stressed. I think people have had enough,” said Todd Vachon, Director of the Labor Education Program at Rutgers University.

Vachon says the shortage changes the climate around the strike at John Deere, differing from the last strike at Deere in 1986 when fewer workers were needed than those applying.

“So fast-forward to today, we have this short supply of workers willing to take these jobs so that actually flips the power balance a bit where we have more leverage and we can make the demands to make the job have the pay and the benefits that they wish they had had all along,” said Vachon, “So really there is this discontent and unrest across the entire labor market and across the U.S. and you are getting a really local manifestation of it there with the John Deere plant.”

One employee says the lack of workers creates perfect timing for better benefits in negotiations.

“For once it seems like all the stars aligned for us to get back a lot of the things that we have given back over the last 25 or 30 years,” said Tim Niedert, a former UAW bargaining chairman and John Deere employee.

The shortage pits the lack of workers against the need for work.

“We are literally hundreds and hundreds of tractors behind, if not a couple thousand. They are running the risk of people like me going out and finding another job while we are out on strike and those people might not come back,” Neidert said.

In a statement Thursday morning, John Deere says the company has activated the Customer Service Continuation (CSC) plan, meaning employees will be going into the factories daily to keep operations running.

A spokesperson for the company says, “John Deere is committed to a favorable outcome for everyone involved and is committed to reach an agreement with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries. In response, to the strike, we have activated our Customer Service Continuation (CSC) Plan. As part of John Deere’s CSC plan, employees and others will be entering our factories daily to keep our operations running. Our immediate concern is meeting the needs of our customers, who work in time-sensitive and critical industries such as agriculture and construction. By supporting our customers, the CSC Plan also protects the livelihoods of others who rely on us, including employees, dealers, suppliers, and communities.”

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