This article contains live updates posted on Tuesday during and after the vote at Deere. To follow live developments from today, click here.
To learn more about joining the John Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee, Deere workers can email firstname.lastname@example.org or text (484) 514-9797.
To share information confidentially with the Autoworker Newsletter on developments in your area, email us at email@example.com.
Striking Deere workers defeat second UAW-company agreement, in powerful show of determination that workers’ needs be met
Striking workers at John Deere defeated a second United Auto Workers-backed tentative agreement on Tuesday, voting to reject it by 55 percent and defying the UAW’s attempts to ram the contract through. Union officials released five pages of contract “highlights” only two days before the vote, hoping to stampede workers into accepting the deal before they could adequately study and discuss it.
While the defeat of the contract is a courageous step forward by a significant section of industrial workers, it is more important than ever that control of the strike be wrested out of the hands of the corrupt UAW bureaucrats, who have been doing everything they can to secure Deere’s wishes. There can be no doubt that UAW executives were holding emergency talks with their Deere counterparts on Wednesday and are continuing to plot with the company over how to overcome workers’ resistance.
The experience of the strike at Volvo Trucks earlier this year provides the sharpest warning to Deere workers. There, the UAW responded to a third rejection of a concessionary agreement by running roughshod over workers’ will and forcing them to re-vote on the deal they had just rejected, subsequently claiming ratification by a dubious margin of 17 votes.
For their struggle to be successful and workers to achieve their aims, the strike must find a new path forward. Rank-and-file strike committees should be quickly organized at every Deere facility, linking up with the Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee, in order to break through the UAW information blackout and mobilize reinforcements for the strike throughout the auto and heavy equipment industries.
The UAW spent much of Tuesday afternoon and evening keeping workers in the dark on individual plants’ vote outcomes, with many union locals waiting six hours or longer after polls closed before announcing their results.
The largest local, Local 838 in Waterloo, Iowa, which has nearly 3,000 workers and has been a center of opposition to both the contracts this year and in 2015, did not release its results until after the overall outcome was announced, in an apparent effort to prevent momentum building for an even larger no vote. Workers in Waterloo voted to reject the deal by 71 percent, which almost undoubtedly would have catalyzed even more opposition had it been revealed earlier in the day.
Breaking: Defying UAW intimidation, Deere workers vote to reject contract
The United Auto Workers has announced in a tersely-worded statement that Deere workers have rejected the second tentative agreement, by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. At many large locals, the margin of defeat was far higher. According to press reports citing anonymous officials, more than 2,000 out of 3,000 workers in Waterloo voted against the contract.
The vote is a major achievement. It was carried out in defiance of a campaign of lies and intimidation from the UAW, which attempted to force it through after only three days and without even giving workers a chance to look at the contract, which would have lasted for six years.
The struggle at Deere has now entered the next stage. The experience at Volvo Trucks, at Dana and countless other struggles shows UAW will not respond by fighting for workers’ demands, but by re-doubling their efforts to ram through a sellout. The next step for workers is to take the conduct of the strike into their own hands by developing a new leadership of and by the workers themselves, by building the Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee and establishing independent rank-and-file strike committees at every plant. To contact the WSWS about forming a rank-and-file committee, click here.
Preliminary vote totals
Waterloo, Iowa (Local 838): NO 29% (yes) - 71% (no)
East Moline, Illinois (Local 865): NO 45% (yes) - 55% (no)
Milan, Illinois (Local 79): NO 288 (yes) - 320 (no)
Des Moines, Iowa (Local 450): YES 51% (yes) - 49 % (no)
Atlanta, Georgia (Local 472): YES 58 (yes) - 34 (no)
Ottumwa, Iowa (Local 74): YES 325 (yes) - 205 (no)
Davenport, Iowa (Local 281): YES 64% (yes) - 36% (no)
Dubuque, Iowa (Local 94): NO 37% (yes) - 63% (no)
Moline, Illinois (Local 434)
Denver, Colorado (Local 186)
Coffeyville, Kansas (Local 2366)
TOTAL: NO 45%/4030 (yes) - 55%/5010 (no)
Workers at North American Parts Distribution Center in Milan, Illinois, vote to reject contract
Workers at Deere’s Parts Distribution Center (PDC) in Milan, Illinois, have voted to reject the UAW-Deere tentative agreement by 320 “no” to 288 “yes,” according to unofficial reports.
“I voted no,” a worker at PDC told the WSWS in reaction to the results. “The billionaire company can put some more money on wages.”
“I hope it’s no all the way around,” another worker from PDC said.
The distribution center has been a focus of Deere’s efforts to offset the impact of the strike, with the company sending management personnel and salaried employees to the facility in order to try to maintain the flow of parts to dealerships across North America as the harvest season continues.
The parts center was also the site of the first casualty of the strike. Richard Rich, a 56-year-old worker and 15-year veteran of PDC, was tragically struck by a vehicle and killed while crossing a dimly lit highway near workers’ pickets in the early hours on October 27.
The Milan Police Department reported shortly after the incident that it did not believe the fatality was intentional, but has yet to release further information on who was driving the vehicle or any other results of its investigation.
With polls closed at most Deere locals, workers must be on guard against ballot fraud by UAW
Voting closed at 2 p.m. Central Time at most facilities, after the UAW gave workers only a few hours to vote on a six-year agreement following “informational” meetings in the morning. Voting is reportedly still ongoing for the Harvester plant in East Moline, Illinois, until 7:00 p.m. Voting for the parts distribution center in Milan, Illinois, closed at 4:15 Central Time.
The UAW has reportedly taken measures to isolate different groups of workers from each other during the ratification process. Voting in the Quad Cities, which had taken place at a single location in the last contract vote, was been broken up into several different locations today.
A Moline worker described how the UAW split up the voting this time: “They got everyone divided this time, different times to listen and vote by alphabetical order. This will be how they pass it, without letting everyone all talk and be at the same place.” He added, “The first thing that was said at the podium by the local UAW president was that YOUR profit sharing money is off the table if this contract isn’t ratified today. Extortion tactics is what I think that’s called.”
Because of the UAW’s efforts to isolate plants from each other during the vote, those who spoke to the WSWS said that the outcome was difficult to determine. However, all of the workers said they themselves had voted against the deal. The contract also seemed likely to be rejected by workers at Waterloo, Iowa, a center of opposition which had rejected the 2015 deal by a two-thirds margin. The union meeting in Waterloo was the scene of angry confrontations between workers and union bureaucrats this morning.
One worker reported that vote counting has already begun in Dubuque, Iowa. The contract also was reportedly passed at Deere’s parts center in Atlanta, Georgia by 58 votes to 34. However, this is a tiny local whose vote accounted for less than 1 percent of the total unionized workforce at Deere. The Waterloo workforce, by comparison, has 3,000 workers.
Workers must be on guard against any potential ballot fraud by union officials. The UAW has been seeking to ram through the deal only three days after it was announced, without giving workers copies of the full contract. It has also sought to suppress open and democratic discussion among workers, disabling comments on social media and telling workers at informational meetings to refrain from “negative” comments.
Workers should recall the example of the Volvo Trucks strike over the summer, which the UAW ended by forcing workers to vote again on a contract they had just rejected, claiming, under dubious circumstances, that it passed in the re-vote by only 17 votes.
The World Socialist Web Site will post more information as it becomes available.
Auto parts worker in Toledo discusses the sellout at Dana and its implications for Deere
A Dana worker spoke to the World Socialist Web Site Tuesday afternoon about how the UAW forced through a sellout contract last month at the auto parts maker, comparing his experience with the contract vote at Deere.
“They had the informational meeting Saturday and on Monday they wanted you to vote. There was no time for any kind of investigation. I saw it coming, the holidays coming up and the money. They knew what they were doing.”
“A lot young people they just hired, who were attending school or were not going to stay [were persuaded to vote ‘yes.’] They are bringing in so many new people, 100 every month, and probably only 10-20 stay.”
“They had everyone vote. Before you had to have 90 days, but this time they had everybody voting. They were using scare tactics saying you would lose this or that.
He described the intimidation that workers faced, saying “At the union meeting a lady asked a question and the union guy says ‘what are you, stupid?’ How do you talk to people like that? They would be like a hiring an attorney and he puts you down in front of the judge. The union told them that after working 19 days you would get 2 days off. But we came to find out that only applied if the product is not in demand. The product is always in demand. The people aren’t getting 2 days off. They lied.
“The union doesn’t do anything,” he concluded. “It is nothing but a sellout. The truth needs to get out about this place.”
More reports on ratification meetings in Des Moines, Iowa and Quad Cities
Deere workers voting today continue to send in reports of their contract ratification meetings today, with many stating there is a large amount of opposition to the deal, despite the UAW’s efforts to sell it.
A worker who attended the “informational” meeting before the vote in the Quad Cities—the Iowa-Illinois metropolitan area where Deere is headquartered and has several facilities—said that the UAW attempted to prohibit any criticism of its deal with Deere.
“We were told right at the start that they would explain and answer questions only,” the worker said. She said officials told workers “if you have nasty comments or anything to just go vote and then leave.”
A worker from the Des Moines Works plant said, “I went to the contract meeting for five minutes, voiced my anger at the UAW representatives there and went to vote. Those people are UAW’s peons. A majority of the people went straight to vote. People had made up their mind before coming regardless of what the UAW had to say.
“The UAW canceled strike duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. because of the vote,” he continued. “They are hoping there won’t be need for any after that.”
Concerned that the UAW will attempt to rig the vote, many have been posting pictures of their “no” ballots to private Facebook groups, workers report. In 2015, the UAW claimed its contract was ratified by a margin of just 180 votes, and refused calls by workers for a recount.
“We’re done! I’m done!” Workers at local meeting in Waterloo erupt in anger at UAW over contract
The World Socialist Web Site received the following account of the contract ratification meeting this morning at UAW Local 838 in Waterloo, Iowa:
I just got home from the second ratification vote/meeting.
I stated, “I pay my dues so I'm going to say what I have to say and you're going to listen. What part of full pension and benefits at retirement does the International not understand?”
The place erupted in support of my comments.
Then I asked, “How much did the International get paid to bring this garbage back and try to force it down our throats?”
It was then they cut off my mic cuz they didn't want hear any opposing views.
I yelled, “Tell the International we want full pension and benefits at retirement!!! We're done!!! I'm done!!!” I tore up the highlighter, the place erupted in support, and then I left.
Needless to say, I voted NO.
It’s sad they don't want to hear opposing views by cutting off my mic and shutting off comments on their Facebook page.
Will this second offer pass? If it does, it’ll be by fraud and corruption cuz the vast majority of people were saying, “Hold the line!”
Another worker in Waterloo who attended the meeting confirmed the account, saying, “Yeah, they all feel that International [the UAW’s national apparatus] is out of touch.” He said Local 838 UAW officials “tried to say all what we could buy with that $8,500 [signing bonus]. Not many happy people here.”
Waterloo Drivetrain Operations worker: “It’s time to step up and do something”
A veteran worker at Deere’s Drivetrain Operations in Waterloo, Iowa, said, “Most of the people I’ve talked to about the contract, their view is not very positive. The raise on this isn’t really a raise after cost-of-living increases.
“Everybody thinks we could get that same pre-1997 package that was in the past. Health care, we were paying nothing when I started, now it’s $40 for each visit, and more if you have to go to the emergency room.
“I need to retire someday—I can’t work till I’m 100—but I’m not going to be able to retire at 60. I’m not going to be able to work 30 years and then get out, cause our 401(k) is horrid.
“And you’ll have to go out and get your own health insurance once you’re retired, and by that point you won’t be able to afford it.”
Describing his experiences with the UAW, he continued, “I don’t know how many times we’ve gone to UAW with complaints, about overtime and other things, and they’ll say, ‘Well, that’s a gray area.’ I need this gray area to become not a gray area. It should either be this way or that way. It’s not that hard to print a true statement.
“The UAW do nothing for us,” he said. “They’re right in the back pocket for John Deere, it’s like they think Deere is the god and we have to do what they say.”
He recounted the UAW’s efforts to ram the 2015 contract through, not providing workers the full contract and or time to study the terms. “In 2015 you were walking in blinded. And by the time we got done voting, the news already said we passed it.”
“First thing the UAW said about this contract is that it’s the best they’re going to do,” he said. “But obviously their calculators are broken or they don’t know how to do math. Deere has 17 quarters with highly profitable gains, and yet don’t want to give good wages and benefits. We still have people working here on food stamps.”
“It’s all scare tactics, they think that we’re weak,” In 2015, he said, “No one was communicating, but people are getting more and more word out, and we have hope.
“I know we had Facebook or whatever back then, but it didn’t seem used as much. It’s helped a lot for us to communicate to our brothers and sisters throughout Iowa and Illinois this year, so people feel comfortable voting no.”
Concluding, he said, “It’s time to step up and do something, we can’t just complain about it.”
Auto parts worker in Indiana: “We stand with them 100 percent”
An auto parts worker at the Faurecia plant in Columbus, Indiana, and member of the Faurecia Workers Rank-and-File Committee sent the following statement to the WSWS. The plant manufactures exhaust converters for John Deere heavy equipment.
The worker said that despite any inconvenience that the interruption of production might cause at their plant, the overwhelming sentiment among workers there is support for a continuation of the John Deere strike.
The Deere workers should stand strong and vote “NO!” The UAW did not even let them read the contract and they are forcing a vote. That is ridiculous and everybody knows it. They have not even seen it. They have to vote “No!” We stand with them 100 percent!
The UAW are back-stabbers. They are going to try to push this through. The rank and file need to get together and denounce the whole process. The UAW is not to be trusted. The [former presidents are] in jail, or club fed, whatever.
They need to oversee the count. They have not had any time to study the contract. The union hasn’t even given them the contract to look at and they want them to vote. They need to say, “No contract to study, no vote. It does not go through.”
I wish we had had people standing behind us at Faurecia, because I guarantee you people would have jumped up and told the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to stick it… Because everybody knows that the IBEW gave away everything. All the unions are doing the same.
The Rank-and-File Committee needs to get in there with both feet and protect the workers. We need to build up the International Workers Alliance of Rank and File Committees to support each other. If we had had this kind of support at our last contract, the IBEW would not have been able to ram their sellout down our throats.
Waterloo worker: “This TA is not the best we can get”
A worker at Deere’s operations in Waterloo, Iowa, told the WSWS, “I have been a part of this union for 10 years. I have been a voice and will continue to be a voice for my co-workers.
“The union has shown its dark face in the past, and now it’s our turn. Whether we are ready or not for what is to come, we will fight. This TA is not the best we can get. There’s more. In two to three weeks we have shown and proven we are serious.
“My opinion, if we turn this down, the company will let us sit and come back to us when we are in need, then offer a bad TA with a signing bonus that everyone will need at the time. We have to be strong and fight through that. The only way we will get what we deserve is to be patient and hold out.
“The company is getting it from both ends though. Maybe I’m wrong about that and it won’t take that long. The farmers have already bought up most of the used John Deere products to make it though the year, cannibalizing tractors to make theirs work, borrowing parts, etc. After that... well, they will want new equipment. And if there's no ‘us’ there is no new equipment.
“I don’t know honestly what will happen with this offer when it comes to vote. But my individual opinion is irrelevant because I'm part of a whole. If we stay out on strike, I’m ready to fight.”
Des Moines Deere worker says: “Vote no for the betterment of all of us”
“As a UAW member working at John Deere, I reject the new Tentative Agreement that doesn’t live up to the expectations of union members,” a worker at Deere’s Des Moines, Iowa, plant said. “I also call upon my union brothers and sisters to do the same. Brothers and sisters, we should reject this new Tentative Agreement and vote no for the betterment of all of us.
“Unfortunately, the UAW and John Deere again rushed the vote without allowing us to see the entire contract. Please do not allow the same mistake again, like after the last contract vote, when we found out about things not mentioned in the highlights. The digital copy of the ‘highlights’ of the Tentative Agreement fails to address several things. First, how are we supposed to vote on something that we didn’t even see? Second, who can guarantee us that there are no other changes to the contract? The International and UAW leadership? They have demonstrated that they don’t truly represent the interests of working people but their corporate partners. Think of unity and don’t allow them to divide us ever again. I urge you to reject this Tentative Agreement by voting overwhelmingly NO.
“Hold the line and stay strong. In solidarity with all of you.”
Video: Jerry White, labor editor of the World Socialist Web Site, reviews the issues in today’s vote
“Deere workers are in a powerful position to win this struggle,” White said. “But they must reject the back-stabbing by the UAW, expand the Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee, and unite with other workers to wage a common fight against inequality and capitalist exploitation.”
Opposition high among Deere workers on eve of second UAW contract vote
With voting set to begin Tuesday morning and conclude later in the afternoon on a second tentative agreement (TA) between global farm equipment maker John Deere and the United Auto Workers union, opposition to the deal remains widespread among the 10,000 striking workers. The workers are fighting to reverse decades of eroding wages and deteriorating benefits and working conditions, and are in a powerful position with Deere making record profits and struggling to hire.
The UAW, however, is attempting to ram an agreement through which fails to meet workers’ demands. The union only announced the deal Saturday and released five pages of selective contract “highlights” on Sunday, seeking to prevent workers from having time to carefully study the full terms of the contract before voting on it.
With many Deere workers bitterly recalling how the UAW forced through a sellout contract in 2015—releasing highlights hours before voting began—the latest attempt to force a vote without adequate time or information is provoking indignation, both among Deere workers and autoworkers who have suffered similar treachery by the UAW.
Deere workers issue statement Sunday opposing latest tentative agreement: “Reject UAW-Deere blackmail!”
After more than two weeks on strike, the United Auto Workers is trying to rush through another pro-company deal, which ignores our demands for raises big enough to make up for 25 years of eroding wages, time off with our families, and fully paid retiree health benefits and pensions for all workers.
To add insult to injury, the UAW is trying to pull another fast one like it did in 2015 by making us vote before we have time to sufficiently study and discuss the deal. They are telling us to vote Tuesday without access to the full contract and letters of agreement that will dictate our lives for the next six years.
We are workers, not industrial slaves! The Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee calls on workers to demand the release of the full contract and all side letters now and insist on a full week to study the contract before any vote. If the UAW goes ahead and holds the vote, Deere workers should reject the deal on principle and toss it in the garbage where it belongs.
Rank-and-file workers must also demand the right to oversee the voting process, so the UAW doesn’t repeat what it did in 2015, when it claimed the hated contract miraculously passed by 180 votes. No one should doubt that the UAW won’t try to make the vote come out the “right” way if they think they’re able to get away with it.
The self-serving “highlights” no doubt conceal numerous other concessions that we would only find out later. What we do know, however, is enough to reject this deal like we did the first one.
UAW-Deere contract “highlights” show deal again fails to meet workers’ demands
The latest tentative agreement between the United Auto Workers union and Deere and Company, select details of which were released by the UAW in a six-page “highlights” document on Sunday, once again fails to meet workers’ demands for major wage increases, the restoration of post-retirement health care and full pensions for all workers, and significant improvements to working conditions.
The “highlights” posted by the UAW on Sunday show that:
- There is still no health care for all retirees, which, along with wages, has been the most important issue for workers. Deere and the UAW eliminated retiree health care for new hires when the two-tier wage and benefit system was implemented in 1997.
- General wage increases, while relatively higher than the previous proposal, would still occur only every other year of the six-year contract, with 10 percent the first year, 5 percent in 2023 and 2025, and lump sum payments in the alternating years.
For a worker currently making roughly $20 an hour, this would average out to only a $1 a year raise over the next six years with new COLA payments (cost-of-living allowances) taken into account, according to the UAW’s projected wage table.
Workers have already taken to social media to denounce the proposed raises as a slap in the face, under conditions in which the company is making record profits this year and giving its CEO a 160 percent raise from 2020 to 2021. Workers are insisting that the company make up for a quarter century of declining real wages, since pay for newly hired workers was cut substantially beginning in the 1997 contract, and wages were kept stagnant for all workers in subsequent years.
- The tier system would remain in place for retirement benefits, and workers hired after 1997 would still receive only a partial pension and 401(k). The company seemingly retreated from its demand in the first contract to eliminate pensions entirely for new hires, which provoked massive opposition, stating that new hires would now be offered the choice between a traditional pension and 401(k). However, given that the full contract has not been released, workers have told the WSWS that they suspect that the company may still be attempting to implement a third tier in retirement benefits.
- Oppressive mandatory overtime rules would continue, which the company will undoubtedly seek to make even greater use of after the strike, as it seeks to speed up operations to make up for lost production.
- CIPP (Deere’s continuous improvement pay plans, a productivity “incentive” scheme) would remain largely unchanged. CIPP is a major source of dissatisfaction for Deere workers, who say that the system is used to continually wring more production and a faster pace out of them.
- The contract would remain at the onerously long duration of six years, longer than the current four-year standard in the auto industry, locking workers into penny-pinching terms for more than half a decade.
The company and the UAW are attempting to sell the deal by dangling a larger signing bonus of $8,500, which will be substantially reduced after taxes and dues are deducted.
Autoworkers voice support for Deere strikers, warn of UAW treachery: “Hold out as long as you can”
The struggle at Deere and the outcome of the vote on Tuesday is being closely watched by many workers in the US and in other countries, including Deere retirees. Gordy, a retired Deere worker in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote to the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter and said, “Keep a close watch on your union reps, they are as bad as the company at selling out the workers. I was a member for 30 years at the Minneapolis, Minnesota, warehouse. I was a part of the 1986 strike. Good luck.”
“The fact that the IUAW is still not supplying the workers with nothing more than fake contract highlights and zero time to study much of anything is absolutely criminal,” a veteran worker at Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) in Kokomo, Indiana, said.
He continued, “It’s apparent that the UAW has not been penalized by the Justice Department, nor has the IUAW ‘been scared straight.’ It goes to show you that the Justice Department’s recent [corruption probe] was a big show. They only did so to appease the workers and public and to lull the public back to sleep while the corporations and bureaucrats continue stripping the workers of what little we had left.”
The worker warned about the danger of the UAW bureaucracy attempting to rig the vote and encouraged rank-and-file Deere workers to find ways to monitor the balloting. “Better get control of the ballot boxes. Go back and look at the FCA 2019 contract vote totals at each local. I don’t think a single local had anywhere close to 50 percent turnout—according to the totals. But I don’t know of anyone who didn’t vote.”
He concluded, “The rank and file ought to have designated counters at each voting site. They don’t have to know how everyone voted, but just the total number of votes. Like exit polling.”
- Deere workers issue statement opposing latest tentative agreement: “Reject UAW-Deere blackmail!”
- UAW-Deere contract “highlights” show deal again fails to meet workers’ demands
- Opposition high among Deere workers on eve of second UAW contract vote
- Autoworkers voice support for Deere strikers, warn of UAW treachery: “Hold out as long as you can”