OTTUMWA — Union workers at Deere & Co. plants across the country could strike by Wednesday night after workers overwhelmingly voted down the company's latest contract offer.
The ongoing contract feud involves nearly 600 workers at the John Deere facility in Ottumwa, and about 7,000 workers in Iowa. In all, the contract covers more than 10,000 workers in several states and more than a dozen facilities.
According to a Facebook post by UAW Local 74, which represents workers of the Ottumwa facility, nearly 87% of workers rejected the company's offer. Employees are currently working on a short-term extension, which expires Friday.
Chainwide, 90% of union workers rejected the proposed agreement. In other votes around the state, 93% of voters rejected in Waterloo, as did 86% in Davenport and 91% in Des Moines.
The union has told workers that negotiators will head back to the table with John Deere for a better offer. However, a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday has been set. If the company doesn't improve its offer by then, a strike will begin.
Last month, workers in the company authorized a strike with 99% support, should negotiators feel it became necessary. The last strike was in 1986, in the midst of the Farm crisis.
"John Deere remains fully committed to continuing the collective bargaining process in an effort to better understand our employee's viewpoints," said Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company.
The proposed contract was a six-year deal struck by the United Auto Workers union and John Deere.
The contract dispute comes as the company is reporting record profits. This year, they expect to improve beyond their 2013 record by at least 61%, with projections of between $5.7 billion to $5.9 billion this fiscal year, which ends in November.
The proposed contract, which was endorsed by top union officials, would have resulted in an immediate pay raise of 5% to 6%, followed by additional 3% pay bumps in 2023 and 2025.
Deere's pension program would have been ended for new hires, starting Nov. 1 or later. Current employees, hired since 1997, would have seen an increased pension that still lagged behind longer-tenured employees.