by Katie Akin
Iowa political leaders congratulated United Auto Workers union members on Wednesday after they agreed to a new contract, ending a five-week strike at John Deere plants.
About 61% of UAW members voted in favor of a third-round proposal with Deere & Co. for a new six-year contract. The contract will increase wages by 10% and increase retirement benefits. Workers will also keep their existing health insurance. It also comes with an $8,500 signing bonus.
In a statement, UAW President Ray Curry thanked the workers for holding the line for five weeks.
“UAW John Deere members did not just unite themselves, they seemed to unite the nation in a struggle for fairness in the workplace,” Curry said. “We could not be more proud of these UAW members and their families.”
Iowa Republicans and Democrats alike issued statements praising the Deere executives and union members for finding a compromise and ending the strike.
“It isn’t too much to ask for good benefits, a secure retirement, safety on the job, and wages you can raise a family on – it’s the bare minimum,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn. “Workers all over Iowa deserve to share in the financial success of the companies that they keep running.”
Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann said he was “proud that an agreement could be reached.”
“The great Iowa products, made by John Deere workers, help farmers feed and fuel the world,” Kaufmann said in a statement Wednesday night. “The men and women who build these tremendous machines are the same ones who are the backbone of many communities across Iowa.”
Iowa Republicans have acknowledged the right for unions to strike. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week took aim at Democratic Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer for “siding with union strikers whose actions are jeopardizing entire crops and the livelihood of farmers.” The NRSC is working to flip the Senate, including supporting the reelection of Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Grassley recognized the right to strike at the beginning of negotiations, and he tweeted Wednesday night the agreement “brings much needed certainty for Iowa families.”
Other members of Iowa’s delegation also commended Deere and the union for resolving the strike.
“John Deere, the manufacturing industry, and the men and women who build essential ag equipment are critical to the success of Iowa’s economy,” Rep. Randy Feenstra tweeted Thursday morning. “I’m glad to hear business leaders and workers were able to reach an agreement.”
“This deal will go a long way to supporting Iowa’s economy and making sure we continue to be the best place to work, live, do business, and raise a family,” tweeted Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of the States Newsroom, a network of similar news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.
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by Katie Akin