Union workers to vote on latest Deere contract offer, includes minor changes

Some 10,000 striking UAW workers are voting Wednesday on a Deere & Co. contract proposal that their union leaders have characterized as the company’s “last, best and final offer.” 

John Deere company officials have declined to comment on the tentative agreement presented Friday to UAW workers at 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. Leaders from the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America also have remained mum about the changes to the company’s third offer, except to say that it includes “modest modifications” over its second proposed agreement. 

That second pact was rejected Nov. 2 by 55% of the striking UAW workers. The company’s initial offer was voted down Oct. 14 by nearly 90 percent of the UAW workers.

According to a summary of the contract modifications posted on Facebook by Waterloo’s UAW Local 838, the latest offer makes minor changes to what Deere calls its Continuous Improvement Performance Plans, or CIPP. 

Essentially, the new deal before workers modifies how Deere calculates performance bonuses, which are paid if teams of workers exceed specific company-set targets. It’s a complicated process, and the post on 838’s Facebook page provides a calculator to help individual union members figure out what the CIPP changes will mean for them.

As for the rest of the contract, the post said, “ALL other provisions of the second (tentative agreement) remain including Profit Sharing for 2021.” Among the provisions which would remain intact over the life of the six-year pact are 30% wage hikes, quarterly cost-of-living adjustments, an $8,500 ratification bonus, no insurance co-pay increases for the next six years and retirement plans that include: a defined benefit plan that guarantees monthly payments for life, a 401(k) and lump sum bonuses paid on retirement.

It remains to be seen whether those minor modifications will be enough to win a “yes” vote from a majority of striking union workers, who are facing the prospect of colder days on the picket line and a holiday season kickoff that’s just a week away. 

Neither the UAW nor Deere have said what will happen next if striking workers say “no” to Deere’s “last, best and final offer.”

One potential outcome of such a declaration, however, is that Deere could declare an impasse in the negotiations. In such a labor standoff, according to the National Labor Relations Board, companies can impose the terms of the latest contract offer on all employees who report to work, including union workers who cross the picket line and new hires.

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