OTTUMWA, Iowa (WHO) — As the saying goes, nothing runs like a Deere, and Ottumwa’s John Deere factory has manufactured the signature green tractors since 1911. However, a strike has brought the operation to an abrupt halt.
United Auto Workers chapters across the Midwest confirmed via social media at the stroke of midnight Thursday that they are now on strike. That includes UAW Local 74, which represents Ottumwa’s employees.
Employees represented by Region 4 of the United Auto Workers union overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal between the union and John Deere over the weekend. The UAW then set a deadline for 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday for an agreement, or else more than 10,000 workers across the Midwest will go on strike.
Nearly a thousand of those workers are in Ottumwa, which makes John Deere the city’s second-largest employer behind a pork plant run by JBS.
Mary Decker has lived in Ottumwa for fifty years. She says the John Deere plant is deeply interwoven with the city’s history.
“I used to know a lot of people that would go to work there right out of high school,” said Decker. “They would have a good-paying job right off the bat.”
Decker hopes the two sides come to an agreement favorable to the workers, because that could mean more money flowing through Ottumwa’s local economy.
“It is time the workers got together and stood strong like they did in the old days,” Decker said. “It seems to me all of the big companies are getting richer and richer and its time they shared their profits. Prices go up and wages don’t. I’m all for it.”
When reached for comment on Wednesday, both the UAW and John Deere deferred to statements made after the first contract proposal was rejected.
The UAW’s statement:
“The tentative agreement reached by the UAW and John Deere was rejected by a majority of 90% of the membership. The UAW negotiating team will report immediately to Moline on Monday. A strike deadline has been set for 11:59 pm, Wednesday, October 13th. Further updates will be provided by our Local Unions.”Chuck Browning, United Auto Workers Vice President
John Deere’s statement:
“After weeks of negotiations, John Deere reached tentative agreements with the UAW that 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. In the meantime, our operations will continue as normal.”Brad Morris, Vice President of Labor Relations for Deere & Company
The strike will also impact John Deere operations in Ankeny, Waterloo, Davenport, and Dubuque.