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Watch now: Deere, union in contract talks

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Deere Contract

FILE - In this April 9, 2019, wheels are attach as workers assemble a tractor at John Deere's Waterloo, Iowa assembly plant. The vast majority of United Auto Workers union members rejected a contract offer from Deere & Co. Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021 that would have delivered at least 5% raises to the workers who make John Deere tractors and other equipment. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Telegraph Herald via AP, File)

A majority of Deere & Co. ($DE@US) workers—members of the United Auto Workers union—voted against a new 6-year deal brokered by union negotiators. 

MOLINE — Union leaders spent Wednesday in last-minute contract negotiations with Deere and Co. More than 10,000 workers were set to walk off the job at 11:59 unless a deal was struck.

The United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America rejected the company's latest offer on Sunday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have delivered 5% raises to some workers and 6% raises to others.

Brian Rothenberg, a UAW spokesman, said negotiators from both sides had resumed talks Wednesday in an effort to avert a strike. 

A strike would affect workers in Illinois, Iowa and Kansas. Each Deere plant covered by the contract is organizing its own strike outside of its respective buildings, most of which will begin striking at 6 a.m. Thursday. Once a strike is started at a plant, it will continue for 24 hours a day, seven days a week until an agreement is reached, union leaders have said.

Union members say Deere this week began training salaried workers to fill in for some hourly workers who'd be affected by a strike. 

Thirty-five years have passed since the last major Deere strike, but workers are emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are facing worker shortages.

Chris Laursen, who works as a painter at Deere, told the Des Moines Register that he thinks a strike is imminent and could make a significant difference.

“The whole nation’s going to be watching us,” Laursen said to the newspaper. “If we take a stand here for ourselves, our families, for basic human prosperity, it’s going to make a difference for the whole manufacturing industry. Let’s do it. Let’s not be intimidated.”

The contract talks are unfolding as Deere is expecting to report record profits between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year. The company has been reporting strong sales of its agricultural and construction equipment this year.

The Deere production plants are an important contributors to the economy, so local officials hope any strike will be short-lived.

“We definitely want to see our economy stabilize and grow after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said to the Quad-Cities Times. “Hopefully, these parties can come to a resolution soon.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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