A version of this editorial originally appeared in The Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
This week, as people from all walks of life take a moment to reflect on all they have to be grateful for, many in our community will give thanks that the Deere & Co. strike has ended.
In addition to the Deere employees — union and nonunion — who felt the direct impact, the broader community, too, had a stake in these negotiations. Many people recall the 1980s and the impact of Deere strikes on the community. They know the critical role that Black Hawk County’s largest industrial employer plays in the local economy, along with a network of other businesses connected to Deere. The community heaved a collective sigh of relief last week when a new contract was ratified.
The approval of the contract ended a five-week work stoppage that represented the first major strike by Deere workers in 35 years. And just like that, hours later, workers returned to factories for the third shift. Now workers across the country are in the process of getting production back to full speed.
Nearly every family in the area has been touched in some way by the presence of the global manufacturer in our midst for more than 100 years. The Cedar Valley community can appreciate just what this employer has meant to the livelihood of so many local people.
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It’s not just because John Deere Waterloo Works is the largest industrial employer in the area, boasting more than 3,300 union employees. It’s not just because 40 years ago the plant employed as many as 16,000 people in Waterloo-Cedar Falls. The impact of supplying good jobs for so many years has a ripple effect in the community.
In the Cedar Valley, landing a job at John Deere has long been a coveted goal. Working at “Deeres,” as the locals say, meant a good paycheck and great benefits from a company of gold-standard quality. Hundreds, if not thousands, of others have derived a living from Deere through indirect contact as suppliers and providers of other services. The community at large has benefited from the thousands of volunteer hours that the company and its employees invest every year.
Deere has reiterated its commitment to the area by time and again reinvesting in the community. It is estimated that the company has invested more than $1.5 billion in Waterloo since 2000 in new and renovated facilities as well as new product research and development.
The company has donated millions of dollars and thousands of employee hours over the years to the community as well. Deer recently announced plans to invest $100 million over the next 10 years in the cities where it has factories, focusing on equity and inclusion as it assists everything from food banks to local schools.
This Thanksgiving, we offer a green-and-gold salute to Deere for its vital presence in our community through the years. Among the blessings we count this week will be a robust and productive John Deere Waterloo Works. That’s something for which our whole community should be thankful.