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The deadline for John Deere to present a contract that would meet the "demands and needs" of more than 10,000 workers represented by the United Auto Workers union past at midnight Wednesday without an agreement.

Those employees walked off their jobs Thursday morning in an act of solidarity against the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. It's been 35 years since the last major Deere strike.

"Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules," Chuck Browning, Vice-President and director of the UAW's Agricultural Implement Department, said in a press release. "We stay committed to bargaining until our members' goals are reached."

Browning indicated that employees are demanding more from John Deere this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are also facing worker shortages. Earlier this week, the UAW's membership in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas voted down a proposed contract that included five or six percent raises for factory workers.

"These are skilled, tedious jobs that UAW members take pride in every day," UAW Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith said. "Strikes are never easy on workers or their families but John Deere workers believe they deserve a better share of the pie, a safer workplace and adequate benefits."

John Deere is the largest employer in Waterloo, with nearly 3,000 people working at three local plants. The company also has factories in four other Iowa cities: Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque and Ottumwa.

In a press release, a Deere spokesman stated that the company does not currently have an estimate of when employees affected by the strike will resume activities or the timing for completion of negotiations with the UAW.

"John Deere is committed to a favorable outcome for our employees, our communities, and everyone involved," said Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company. "We are determined to reach an agreement with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries. We will keep working day and night to understand our employees' priorities and resolve this strike, while also keeping our operations running for the benefit of all those we serve."

The last strike against John Deere happened in 1985, during the Farm Crisis. That strike lasted more than five months.

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