The Deere strike — the first at the company since 1986 — is a prominent symbol of the impact the pandemic has had on the economy. Nearly two years of lockdowns and economic tumult have sparked a wave of labor activism, causing many workers to push for better conditions.
“UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace. We could not be more proud of these UAW members and their families,” the union said in a statement.
The picketers won significant concessions since their strike began in mid-October.
The first contract agreement reached between Deere and UAW negotiators, on Oct. 1, offered immediate raises of 5 to 6 percent, depending on the job, and an additional 3 percent in 2023 and 2025. It also proposed eliminating pensions for new hires. Workers rejected the offer by a wide margin.
The second agreement offered an immediate 10 percent raise and an $8,500 ratification bonus, plus 5 percent raises in 2023 and 2025. Deere workers rejected that one, too, but the vote was closer — 55 percent to 45 percent.
The latest contract made “modest modifications” to the second offer, the UAW said. Workers said those included tweaks to how Deere calculates bonuses for workers who meet production targets.
Kristin Jordan, a 19-year veteran at a Deere combine factory in East Moline, Ill., said she was relieved to see the vote pass.
“I’m exhausted and nervous, but I’m proud of what was accomplished,” she said Wednesday night.
Picketers at other companies have also recently won concessions: striking Nabisco and Frito-Lay employees returned to work after negotiating better terms for pay and working hours.
Deere spokeswoman Jen Hartmann said workers would return to their jobs immediately, starting with the late shift Wednesday night.
“I’m pleased our highly skilled employees are back to work, building and supporting the industry-leading products which make our customers more profitable and sustainable,” John C. May, chairman and chief executive, said in an emailed statement.
“John Deere’s success depends on the success of our people. Through our new collective bargaining agreements, we’re giving employees the opportunity to earn wages and benefits that are the best in our industries and are groundbreaking in many ways,” he added.