Picketers say tensions are rising ahead of a Wednesday vote that will determine whether more than 10,000 members of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America go back to work or stay on the picket lines.
Deere and Co. made its latest offer on Friday in hopes of ending a strike that's lasted more than a month. The previous offer was turned away Nov. 2 by a 55%-to-45% vote, with support from some Quad-City union locals but rejection from shops in Waterloo and Dubuque.
Leaders on both sides are declining comment, saying they wish to respect the process as rank-and-file union members begin to learn about the new offer. Workers who'd seen details in the new contract said the changes focused largely on the company's incentives program, or Continuous Improvement Pay Program.
Each local is responsible for informing its members about the new offer. Outside of Davenport Works early on Monday, strikers said they received two Google Docs about the offer at 9 a.m. Workers at John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline and John Deere Seeding Group in Moline had not received official information from their locals. They were notified there would be information sessions before the vote on Wednesday.
“It is a big mess right now,” said one worker, referring to discussions in his local. “If this passes, there will be other people who are not happy.”
If the Deere workers vote down this most recent agreement, they might trigger an impasse. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requires an employer and unions to actively negotiate on employment terms “until they agree on a labor contract or reach a stand-off or 'impasse.'” An impasse is a total breakdown of the bargaining process that occurs after good-faith negotiations and exhausted perspectives, according to the NLRB. This could lead to potential legal action to bring a third party into negotiations or forcing both parties back to the negotiating table.
Deere has said its latest contract is its "last, best and final" offer.
Workers on the picket lines Monday seemed split on how they'd vote. Some said their concerns with CIPP, the incentives program, weren’t addressed through the language changes in the new contract. CIPP is a team-based sharing system that provides an opportunity for employees to make extra money when they demonstrate a level of performance over a long period of time. Workers who've criticized the program say it is designed to boost productivity but it's often difficult to meet the threshold that triggers pay increases.
Also in the contract, workers said, are terms that protect their earnings in case of supply-chain disruptions, a common problem across the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“CIPP is extremely complicated, and it's intentionally complicated,” one worker said.
Union members have until Wednesday to figure it out. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.