The union`s website contained few details — just a two-sentence message that read, „The UAW and John Deere have agreed to extend the current collective agreement as the parties continue to move toward a tentative agreement. Any updates or changes to the status of negotiations will be communicated through our Locals. The UAW`s most pressing concern was to push through the Deere deal in every possible way after the defeat of the Fiat Chrysler deal to prevent a united struggle by deere workers and autoworkers. The tentative agreement, which includes nine locals from Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, was initially announced last Friday, but the union did not provide details. Workers at the farm machinery manufacturer expected to have to pick up concise documents from their union rooms starting this morning („One highlighter per member. No exceptions,“ said the Facebook page of a local). United Auto Workers announced that a new six-year contract for 11,000 workers at agricultural machinery giant John Deere was ratified on Sunday. The UAW rushed the vote on the deal reached last Wednesday without giving any information to workers, except for a superficial 17-page document distributed Sunday at ratification meetings. The previous 6-year contract officially expired last Thursday, but on Friday the company and the union announced that they had reached a provisional agreement.
Both also announced that they would not disclose the terms of the deal, except for its duration. However, a statement from the union said, „The new agreement provides for many improvements for UAW members, including compensation and working conditions, while giving Deere the tools to grow its business.“ „We are committed to reaching an agreement with the UAW that puts every employee in a better economic position and continues to make them the highest-paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries,“ Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations at Deere & Company, said in a statement. Deere appears to have backtracked on many of these concessions at the negotiating table. But the tentative agreement does not fix the decades-long complaints workers have against Deere. The most important is the two-tier pension system: it is only before 1997 that new employees receive a full pension and health care after retirement. The pension of anyone hired in the last quarter century is only one-third that of their older colleagues, and they do not receive health care for retirees. Not to mention lower salaries and benefits while they`re still at work. The WSWS teams of journalists received a warm welcome in Iowa and Illinois. Journalists distributed thousands of leaflets declaring, „Reject the UAW deal to pass the sale agreement!“ When workers read the statement – and discussed the overwhelming „no“ of autoworkers at Fiat Chrysler – belligerent union officials tried to prevent workers from reading the material.
However, some people who had seen the deal said it would raise workers` wages between 37 cents and 56 cents an hour in the first year, depending on their current wages. The annual increases in hourly wages would be about the same for the rest of the six-year contract. John Deere is known for its green and yellow agricultural tools, such as these tools, which were exhibited at the 2015 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois. Seth Perlman/AP Hide legend Deere and Company and the United Auto Workers union now have a new contract. The two sides announced Sunday that union members had approved a new six-year employment contract covering facilities in three states during the weekend vote. Sunday`s ratification vote could be more than the content of the agreement. Workers have long been frustrated with the bargaining process and the lack of communication they receive about it. In the last round of negotiations in 2015, members only received details of the agreement when they voted on it at ratification meetings. This agreement was adopted by less than 200 votes. And the last minute extra time only added to the frustration. „A new labor agreement has been ratified by UAW members at Deere & Company,“ the UAW wrote in a brief statement on its website, without giving details of the vote. „The new agreement brings many improvements to UAW members, including compensation and working conditions for nearly 10,000 members, and gives Deere & Company the tools to grow its business.“ Many workers were outraged by the UAW`s claims, saying there was widespread opposition to the sale deal.
An unofficial report from a WSWS Autoworker Newsletter worker says the vote was approved by 180 votes. Deere would also agree not to close the work covered by the contract, according to the people who saw the agreement. Deere is a major employer in Iowa with large plants in Ankeny, Cedar Falls-Waterloo, Dubuque, Quad Cities and Ottumwa. About 1,400 workers at all of Kellogg`s grain plants left work earlier this month after being at an impasse with the company over a new collective agreement for more than a year. After some details of the deal were revealed, a worker wrote to the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter: „People are angry!“ Similar to the previous contract in 2009, workers received a sales deal that preserved and deepened the hated two-tier system, increased personal health spending, and worsened the status quo with a two-decade erosion of their living standards. With the complete elimination of the pension for new employees, the provisional agreement doubles the system of levels: there will now be at least three stages instead of two as far as retirement is concerned. One of the concerns was that postponing a walkout would give Deere more time to build inventory and weaken worker leverage. „If we give Deere two more weeks to catch up on production, and they don`t bring in anything good, the torches and forks will come,“ said Chris Laursen, former president of Local 74 in Ottumwa. „Membership is not at all in the mood for another concession contract.“ It seems likely that members` frustration at not being able to see the full language of the changes, as well as the high-profile contract rejections by UAW members at Volvo`s Virginia truck plant earlier this year, put pressure on the UAW to bring the full language of contract changes online.
Photo: Flickr user Moon Man Mike, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 The increases aim to close a pay gap that exists under a two-tier pay system introduced nearly 20 years ago. In the 24-page contract summary, UAW negotiators highlight what they consider to be the biggest gains. This includes maintaining health insurance with no current premium (as opposed to a plan that requires them to pay 20% of premiums, as Deere has threatened); the reintroduction of the cost-of-living adjustment, which had been abolished in the previous contract; and an 11% increase over six years. In 2022, 2024 and 2026, employees will receive 2% lump sum payments instead of salary increases. The list of highlights also mentions „pension and retirement have improved“. This is partly true – for current employees hired since 1997, pensions will increase (but not near the highest pension level). But anyone hired after November 1 of this year is not entitled to the normal pension. Instead, new employees are accepted into a new cash balance plan and are eligible for a 401(k). .