Laid off Deere workers in Dubuque wonder about future - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Laid off Deere workers in Dubuque wonder about future

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The 65 workers John Deere is laying off in Dubuque are wondering what the future holds for them.

John Deere announced Thursday it's laying off 65 manufacturing workers at its Dubuque location, effective June 24.

John Deere Dubuque Works manufactures machines in the forestry and construction division. Deere spokesperson Ken Golden said the company attributes the layoffs to lower-than-projected sales and demand in that market.

Rod Tschiggfrie is general manager and vice president of Tschiggfrie Excavating, a 50-year-old Dubuque company.

"We operate about 200 pieces of heavy equipment," he said Friday on the site of a construction project.

The company is a sub-contractor on the US Highways 151/61/52 construction project in Dubuque. Even with big jobs like that, however, Tschiggfrie is cutting back on new equipment.

"As a whole, new equipment purchases certainly are down about 40 percent, and I see that for '14 as well," he said.

That's been the case for the company since the recession hit, around 2007.

"We spend more time and money and budget into keeping equipment we already own alive and healthy, versus spending it buying new equipment," Tschiggfrie said.

Although Dubuque has been somewhat sheltered from the full effects of the economic downturn, he said, because of area leaders' and business owners' more conservative approach to spending, the construction market is down nationwide.

"I think everybody has pulled back the reins and feeling it," Tschiggfrie said, "and we certainly had to become more conservative in all our approaches."

He said he doesn't anticipate that changing in 2014, as a look toward the number of upcoming projects doesn't seem to be growing significantly, specifically large jobs such as federal and state road construction projects.

The United Auto Workers Union Local 94 represents the 65 workers facing layoffs come June 24. UAW Local 94 president Dan White said he and workers saw orders at the plant slowing in recent months but hoped it would never come to layoffs.

White said although Deere has promised to hire workers back as soon as the jobs open back up, nobody can say when or if the jobs will return.

The workers met with people at the unemployment office Friday. Deere laid the workers off according to union agreement, by those with the least amount of seniority.

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