John Deere Strike 2021: Why Are Workers Taking Industrial Action and How Long Will It Last?

Thousands of workers at John Deere, the world's largest farm equipment maker, have gone on strike following failed contract negotiations, the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union said on Thursday.

The latest incident marks the first major strike against the Illinois-based company in 35 years.

Why Have John Deere Workers Gone on Strike?

Over 10,000 John Deere workers walked off the job at midnight on October 14 after the company "failed to present an agreement that met our members' demands and needs," the UAW said in a statement on Thursday.

Chuck Browning, vice president and director of the UAW's Agricultural Implement Department, said in the statement: "Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules."

UAW President Ray Curry stated: "The almost one million UAW retirees and active members stand in solidarity with the striking UAW members at John Deere."

Earlier this week, the workers voted against a six-year labor contract for around 10,000 employees across 14 plants in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.

The contract, which was tentatively agreed between the UAW and John Deere on October 1, was rejected by "90 percent of the membership," Browning stated, Reuters reported on October 10.

The rejected offer would have given five percent wage raises for some workers and six percent hikes for others.

The Associated Press reported the contract negotiations took place with John Deere expecting to report record profits between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year. The company has been reporting strong agricultural and construction equipment sales this year.

Reuters reported an unnamed source familiar with the contract talks claimed the company is doing "very well financially."

How Long Will the Strike Last?

The previous UAW strike against John Deere back in 1986 lasted 163 days. It's unknown how long the latest strike will last.

UAW members are "ready to hold out and fight for a contract they believe meets their needs," Ron McInroy, director of UAW Region 4, said on Thursday. "Our members and their families appreciate the community support they have already gotten. Strikes are not easy, but some things are worth fighting for."

According to Reuters, John Deere, which employs around 27,500 workers in the U.S. and Canada, previously said company operations would resume as normal.

The latest industrial action is taking place amid the country's corn and soybean harvest season, as farmers face a shortage of components for tractor equipment.

Newsweek has contacted John Deere and the UAW for comment.

UAW members on strike in Michigan.
United Auto Workers members on strike in October 2019 outside the General Motors Lansing Delta Assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan. Thousands of UAW workers struck against John Deere, a farm equipment maker, on Thursday following failed contract negotiations. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images