John Deere strike: day 1 on the Ankeny picket line

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ANKENY, IOWA — United Auto Workers 450 are on strike at the Ankeny, Iowa plant. Workers went on strike Wednesday at midnight, after an earlier proposed contract was soundly voted down. It’s been 1986 since the Deere plants were idled by a strike.

“It was rough on us, luckily I found out ahead of time that we’re possibly going to go on strike,” said William Tindell Jr. who worked at the Dubuque plant for John Deere. “My wife went out and got a job at K-Mart, which was good. It wasn’t great money, but it was money coming in to help with groceries and that.”

Tindell said the big issue for him on that last strike was health insurance. Tindell had an $86,000 bill for putting a pacemaker in. He is still on John Deere United Health Care Insurance plan, and he owed none of the pacemaker bill.

“That’s why we’re out here now, we want to keep what we got, our benefits,” said Tindell, speaking of the 1986 strike. “We’re not asking for more money, we want to keep our insurance, our retirement, that’s why we’re on strike.”

Tindell thinks it will be a short strike, as does Iowa State University Economist, Dr. Peter Orazem.

“This is a probably the strongest labor position that we’ve had in many years particularly in manufacturing,” said Orazem. “With John Deere you have a company that has done very well, their stock price has more than doubled since the pandemic started.”

Orazem said the 5-6% wage increase proposed would barely keep up with the annual rate of inflation of 5.3%.

“Of course John Deere is trying to expand and with the current lethargic labor supply,” said Orazem. “John Deere is not able to fill the positions that they have open. That’s a really good time to be negotiating.”

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