WATERLOO — As a strike of more than 10,000 workers drags into its fourth week after two rejected contract proposals, a Deere and Co. leader in Waterloo reached out to local elected officials and community leaders to present what she believes is a clearer picture of the company’s most recent offer to striking United Auto Workers.
Rebecca Guinn, factory manager at John Deere Waterloo Works, emailed a letter Tuesday to more than 150 email addresses ranging from business leaders to local elected officials and municipal employees, “to share an update on John Deere’s ongoing negotiations with the UAW,” she wrote.
Guinn noted the company’s second offer — reached in conjunction with the UAW bargaining committee — was struck down Nov. 2 by a majority of the workers, 55% to 45%. More than 70% of the workers in Waterloo’s UAW Local 838 rejected it. Local 838 is the largest among Deere locals.
People are also reading…
“While there has been a great deal of media attention surrounding this vote and the ongoing strike, I felt it was important to share the details of John Deere’s offer directly with you,” Guinn wrote to local leaders.
The email included what Guinn said is the full offer as presented by Deere and Co., as well as a sheet highlighting what the company says is “groundbreaking” and “the best in our industries” wage and benefit offers.
Guinn said in an email to The Courier that her message to local leaders was “not exclusive to Waterloo and is simply a resource for those of us receiving questions within our community.” She noted feedback from those she emailed was “positive.”
“One of the best responses I received was, ‘I am so grateful for this message. Information is power and helps us all respond appropriately when confronted with misinformation,’” Guinn said.
Many of those who received Guinn’s email declined to comment on the record, but generally agreed they appreciated hearing from the company. One said they didn’t believe sharing negotiation offers between an employer and their employees was “any of my business,” while another said they just wanted “the best outcome for all parties.”
Former Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley, a retired salaried Deere employee who continues to work closely with Deere executives on community and economic development projects, said the company had “every right to explain their position,” though he acknowledged it was “a little unique” for them to be reaching out in that way.
“It makes no sense to me, nor anyone I talk with, how this offer is bad,” Hurley said of the latest negotiation. “Obviously, (Deere) would like this to end amicably and fairly.”
Elected officials with the Waterloo City Council and the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors went on record supporting UAW workers shortly after the strike began.
Dave Sires, a Cedar Falls council member in the runoff election for mayor also got the letter. He said he supports the union, and would like the city of Cedar Falls to use “all John Deere equipment” where it can.
UAW Local 838 president Tim Frickson did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Guinn’s email to local leaders reads:
Dear Elected Officials and Community Leaders,
I’m writing to share an update on John Deere’s ongoing negotiations with the UAW. As you’re likely aware, on Nov. 2, John Deere production and maintenance employees from 12 facilities in Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas narrowly rejected a second tentative agreement reached with the UAW bargaining committee. While there has been a great deal of media attention surrounding this vote and the ongoing strike, I felt it was important to share the details of John Deere’s offer directly with you.
Through our offer, John Deere would provide our employees, their families, and our home communities with the opportunity to share in our current and future success in the form of wages and benefits that are not only the best in our industries – they are groundbreaking. There are three aspects of our offer that no other major U.S. manufacturer provides as part of their UAW labor agreement:
Cost-of-living adjustments every 3 months to protect employee wages against inflation — this is in addition to the raises noted below.
Both a company-funded defined benefit pension plan and defined contribution plan (401k) to create greater security for employees in retirement.
Entirely new cash balance savings to provide employees with even more retirement income and flexibility.
While these aspects of our offer are special, they’re part of a complete agreement that will provide significant and long-lasting economic improvements, including:
Increasing wages immediately of 10%, with projected wage increases of 30% over the term of contract, amounting to $6-9 hourly wage increases.
Maintaining incentives and profit sharing that allow employees to earn even more as the entire company succeeds.
Continuing healthcare with $0 premiums, $0 deductibles, $0 coinsurance, and no changes to copayments
‒ Improving health-related benefits by adding paid parental leave and autism care.
Awarding a bonus of up to $50,000 at retirement.
Awarding a $8,500 bonus at ratification.
To learn more about the terms of our offer and the principles that have guided our ongoing collective bargaining with the UAW, attached please find a one-page highlighter and a negotiations update. Thank you for your continued interest in the shared success of John Deere, our employees, and everyone in our home communities. We believe that by working together, our futures are bright.