The big contingent in the small-scale strike wave sweeping the United States (“Striketober”) is 10,000 workers at agricultural equipment company John Deere, out since 14 October over wages, pensions, healthcare and a multi-tier workforce.
Having demanded huge concessions from the workers, including a new third tier with no pensions, the company now appears to have retreated from all or almost all of them. It has also significantly increased its pay offer — from 5% followed by 2% every other year (and one-off 2% lump sums in between) to 10% followed by 5% every other year (and 3% lump sums).
90% of United Auto Workers members voted down the company’s initial offer. 55% voted to reject the second one.
The workers have stood strong despite use of managers as scabs, legal attempts to disperse their picket lines and the death of a striker hit by a vehicle. There is widespread outrage at soaring profits and management salaries in a company which has demanded and won concession after concession over decades — particularly after John Deere workers were told they were essential and worked through the pandemic.
The workers’ demands include the abolition of the second tier and full pensions and post-retirement healthcare for everyone.