WEIS Radio | Local and regional news, sports and weather »John Deere workers to vote on new contract as strike brings big gains for union

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(NEW YORK) – Members of the United Auto Workers Union are expected to vote Tuesday on a tentative deal that would end the ongoing strike by more than 10,000 John Deere workers.

News of the tentative deal, which would give roughly double the wage increase from the previously rejected offer that sparked the strike on October 14, comes as unique labor market conditions have allowed workers to wield new power as the pandemic wears off.

An apparent shortage of workers to take low-paying jobs has left many large companies in shock for staff and has been linked to the wave of strikes that have rocked the private sector in recent weeks. The labor shortage – combined with recent record high rates of people leaving their jobs and record vacancies, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – has allowed workers to gain new leverage as ‘they seek to negotiate for better wages or working conditions.

UAW leadership and John Deere announced on Saturday that a tentative deal had been reached between the union’s elected national bargaining team and farm machinery giant officials, but workers remain on strike until a vote is taken of ratification Tuesday.

The terms of the new agreement would guarantee a 10% wage increase for all unionized employees in the first year of the contract and 5% each in the third and fifth year of the agreement, as well as lump sum payments of 3% during the second, fourth and fifth years of the agreement, according to a breach of contract document shared with ABC News by the union. In addition, employees would receive a ratification bonus of $ 8,500.

There would also be better retirement benefit options and no change to the cost of their health insurance.

The UAW on October 14 rejected a contract offer that would have offered a ratification bonus of $ 3,500 and immediate increases of 5% to 6%.

“Our UAW John Deere National Bargaining Team returned to our local members after the previous tentative agreement and considered members’ concerns and priorities,” said UAW President Ray Curry, in a press release announcing the news of the new agreement in principle.

“We would like to thank the UAW bargaining team and striking UAW members and their families for the sacrifices they made to achieve these gains,” added Curry. “Our members have enjoyed the support of our communities and the entire labor movement nationwide as they have come together in support and solidarity in recent weeks.”

John Deere, meanwhile, confirmed in a statement posted on its website that a second tentative agreement on an employment contract had been reached with the union and that “the UAW will call for a vote on the new labor agreement. principle”.

Striking John Deere workers have received greetings and support from lawmakers and the public, as new employee activism during the so-called “Striketober” fueled the momentum of the post-pandemic labor movement.

A GoFundMe set up to support striking Deere workers has raised more than $ 135,000 from more than 3,000 donors.

John Deere’s first strike in more than three decades comes after the company said it earned a record $ 4.68 billion in the first nine months of fiscal 2021, more than double the $ 1.993 billion of dollars reported for the same period last year.

John Deere chief executive officer John May, meanwhile, received approximately $ 15.58 million in compensation in fiscal 2020, according to a company filing with the SEC. That would make the ratio of total CEO compensation to median total compensation for an employee in 2020 about 220 to 1, according to the SEC filing.

The recent wave of employee activism that has manifested itself in work stoppages and strikes in recent weeks comes after the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked disproportionate havoc on workers deemed ‘essential’, but also after decades of skyrocketing income inequality in the United States. , said experts.

“I think workers have reached a tipping point,” Tim Schlittner, communications director for the AFL-CIO union coalition, told ABC News last month shortly after the Deere strike began. “For too long they have been called essential, but treated as consumables, and workers have decided enough is enough.”

Schlittner said the pandemic has also exposed profound “power imbalances in the economy.”

“The pandemic has made it clear what is important and what is not, and workers are looking at work in a new way and demanding more return on their work and demanding things like basic respect, dignity. and safety at work, ”he said. “The pandemic has shown everyone how important workers are to this country, and you can’t call essential workers for 18 months and then treat them like crap when they all come back to work. “

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