How the John Deere Strike Could Impact Local Communities, According to a Professor

by John Jamison

As fewer people jump at job opportunities, those who remain employed find themselves with increased bargaining power. Workers all across the country are trying to use the labor shortage to their benefit by going on strike. Now, 10,000 John Deere & Co. workers are engaged in a strike of their own. However, the situation is far more complex than a wage dispute alone.

Many are worried about the impact the United Auto Workers’ hold out will have on the local economy. The fate of communities in the Quad Cities—an area spanning the Illinois-Iowa border—hangs in the balance. The striking workers are looking for wage increases in line with company profits and intend to hold the line until their demands are met.

A professor at Loyola University in Chicago, Pete Norlander, spoke to WQAD 8 ABC about what the strike means for local communities.

“When workers do better, then the coffers of the community will do better,” said Norlander.

The problem is the workers aren’t working at present. Each day that goes by brings the region one step closer to permanent effects.

“It was not the same community afterward. And that’s why these are risky, high stakes and pivotal, you know, moments,” Professor Norlander said of the 1990s Caterpillar strike in Peoria.

The Deere & Co.-United Auto Workers strike has likely already curbed spending within the Quad Cities. The longer it goes, the less likely community members will be to spend money.

“There are ways to supplement income, move things around, there’s strike funds, right, that can replace some income, but people may also cut back spending thinking ‘we don’t know how long this is going to last,” Norlander continued.

The professor thinks a “win-win” situation is hidden in the negotiations somewhere. Finding it is another matter entirely.

The Reasons Behind the John Deere Strike in the Picket Line’s Own Words

It’s important to note that Deere & Co. has had a 61% profit increase in recent years. The 10,000 striking workers (and millions more in solidarity) feel that they are not being valued fairly in light of the company’s performance. Add to that a 160% bump in the CEO’s salary alone over the pandemic. You have a recipe for an effective strike.

One worker put it simple and plain.

“The raise that was offered to us wasn’t what we’re expecting. And the company wants to eliminate pensions for the people hired after us,” a United Auto Worker picketer told ABC.

These comments come after the John Deere employees refused to sign the first deal UAW negotiated.

There was a pretty blatant attack on our benefits,” said another John Deere worker.

The United Auto Workers-Deere & Co. dispute is but one of a handful of strikes currently in progress.