Young workers from Milwaukee join the John Deere UAW picket lines
Waterloo, IA – At Midnight on October 14, 10,000 United Auto Worker union members went on strike across four Midwestern states and Colorado, with over 90% of workers having voted to strike. The workers rejected a six-year contract that would eliminate their pensions, preserve a two-tier wage system that disadvantages new workers, and would have raises that don’t keep pace with inflation.
Workers from Milwaukee representing the Young Workers Committee (YWC) of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council (MALC) visited UAW Local 838 workers in Waterloo, Iowa, where the largest number of John Deere union workers are employed, with around 3000 union workers at locations across the city.
There were two delegations: one visited the lines on October 24, a cold and rainy day; and the other visited on October 25, with the sun shining and not a cloud in the sky. The purpose of the trips was to demonstrate solidarity by delivering food, donating money to the strike fund, and joining the John Deere workers on the picket line. Strike support is something that YWC promotes as a part of its goal to bring a fighting spirit back to the labor movement.
While speaking with members of the YWC delegation, one UAW worker on the picket line remarked, “John Deere doesn’t own us, they rent us, and the rent is going up!”
John Deere union workers have not gone on strike since the Farm Crisis of the late 1980s when grain prices and demand for agricultural equipment collapsed. In sharp contrast to the conditions leading up to the 1986-1987 strike, John Deere raked in record profits of $4.7 billion in the first nine months of 2021 (more than $1 billion greater than the entire record-setting year of 2013), grain prices have surged, and there is incredible demand for agricultural equipment. The previous strike lasted for 163 days.
Since the beginning of the strike, the bosses have filed injunctions against the union to stop picket lines in multiple cities. Injunctions were filed against the pickets in Davenport and Ankeny, Iowa. While the judge in the Davenport case has issued a temporary order limiting the number of picketers to four at a time and banning burn barrels and lawn chairs, the attempt in Ankeny has been defeated.
A worker joining the picket line in Moline, Illinois was struck and killed while crossing the Rock Island-Milan Beltway. Details have not yet been released to the public about the circumstances leading up to the death of the worker.
If you would like to contribute to the union workers on strike contact UAW Region 4 in the Midwest at 847-459-3888 and UAW Region 8 in Colorado at 615-443-7654.