Union members reject tentative agreement with John Deere

Members of a major union voted Sunday to reject a tentative collective bargaining agreement with Dubuque County’s largest employer, and officials now are weighing whether to go on strike.

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America members voted to reject a tentative agreement with Deere & Co. that had been announced Oct. 1. Union members met to discuss the agreement Sunday.

The contract would have covered 10,100 production and maintenance employees who are union members at John Deere facilities in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, including John Deere Dubuque Works.

There are 2,800 full-time employees at the Dubuque facility, though not all are union members.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg confirmed that 90% of members voted to reject the agreement.

When asked about concerns members had with the agreement, he said he “really couldn’t go beyond” a brief statement released Sunday night.

The previous six-year contract was set to expire on Oct. 1, the same date the tentative agreement between Deere & Co. and UAW was reached.

Because workers rejected the agreement, union members could choose to go on strike or restart negotiations with Deere.

A strike deadline has been set for 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

Rothenberg said a negotiating team was headed to Moline, Ill., on Monday to discuss next steps.

“The locals elect the bargaining team,” he said. “So there will be representatives from all 12 of the locals, and they will have some folks from the region and international (union).”

On Sept. 12, before the tentative agreement was inked, UAW voted to authorize a strike should an agreement not be reached. The last time John Deere employees went on a strike was in 1986, and it lasted for six months.

A summary of the tentative agreement was available on the UAW website and detailed several proposed changes to wages and benefits.

Under the agreement, union employees would have received a minimum starting wage of $20.10 to $30.30 an hour, depending on the position. That would have marked a 5% increase for lower-paying jobs and a 6% increase for higher-paying positions. Employees also would have received a 3% increase in both 2023 and 2025.

The agreement also would have brought back a quarterly cost-of-living allowance that was last included in the 2009-2015 agreement.

Union members who retired between October 2013 and September 2027 would have received a lump-sum payment of $20,000 to $50,000 over a five-year period, depending on how many years of service an employee had upon retirement. To access the payment, an employee would need to have worked at least 10 years with the company.

Two weeks of paid parental leave was in the proposed agreement, which employees could have taken up to one year after the birth or adoption of a child.

A press release from Deere & Co. stated that the tentative agreement was made after weeks of negotiations, and a company official said the deal would have made “the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in our industries significantly better for our employees.”

“John Deere remains fully committed to continuing the collective bargaining process in an effort to better understand our employees’ viewpoints,” Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Co., said in the release. “In the meantime, our operations will continue as normal.”

Chad Kaiser, president of UAW Local 94 in Dubuque, did not have a comment on the outcome of the vote on Sunday.