Retired John Deere employee explains why UAW members are not backing down

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DES MOINES, Iowa — On Wednesday, United Auto Workers union members will vote on the third preliminary contract agreement between John Deere after members rejected two prior proposals. A retired John Deere employee understands why employees are still on the picket lines after a month on strike.

“These were essential employees during the pandemic and they would like to be paid like they were essential to John Deere,” said retired John Deere employee Steve Goodner. “It’s hard work. We don’t make toothpicks. We make big heavy machinery.”

Goodner worked for the company for 45 years. He says the company experienced strikes about benefits in the 1980s.

“Mainly economic reasons, benefits. I remember distinctly voting on [if] we want[ed] to have dental insurance [and] vision,” said Goodner.

Now, Deere workers are fighting for higher wages. So far, UAW members have voted against two prior agreements. On Wednesday, they will vote on a third agreement that the union says included modest modifications.

John Deere says the third agreement is its best and final offer. However, Goodner believes UAW members have the upper hand.

“Economically, things have fallen John Deere’s way over the last contracts,” said Goodner. “This time, everything is different. [John Deere] is short of help, and they’ve got lots of orders for machinery that they can’t fill, and everybody is looking for workers.”

Goodner thinks if John Deere provided higher pay, the company’s search for employees would end.

“A substantial wage increase for these people, substantial, not a couple of bucks this year and a buck next year. They would like a substantial raise this year,” Goodner said.

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