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John Deere Strike enters one month, a timeline comparison to the 1986-'87 strike

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John Deere Strike enters one month, a timeline comparison to the 1986-'87 strike

WATERLOO, Iowa -- November 14th marks one month of the union workers strike against John Deere.

Current contracts ended October 1st, and negotiations for a new six-year contract started between the union and Deere. On October 11th, the UAW rejected the first tentative agreement by over 90% of the vote. By 11:59 p.m. October 14th, a strike began. Ten thousand Deere workers across 14 factories and multiple states showed up at 7 a.m. October 15th, with "UAW On Strike" signs in hand.

Negotiations resumed the following Monday while strikers continued on the picket line. By the next week, Deere filed injunctions at two factory locations -- Ankeny and Davenport. Deere lost the case against Ankeny but won the one in Davenport, effectively limiting the number of workers at each entrance to the plant. 

On October 27th, A United Auto Workers member and John Deere employee in Illinois was killed after being hit by a vehicle while walking to the picket line. The UAW then released new safety rules and shut down striking that Wednesday afternoon in solidarity with their lost member.

By November 2nd, Union workers rejected the second tentative agreement, though by a smaller margin. Nationally the offer was 45% for and 55% against. Deere responded to the news, stating it would be their "best offer." 

By November 11th, Deere and the Union announced a new, third agreement with "modest modifications" from the last. The most significant changes are to the company's Continuous Improvement Pay Plan or CIPP incentive program. The program provides a financial incentive to boost production. The vote on the new offer will be on November 17th.

It's the first John Deere strike since 1987, when a lengthy and tense dispute lasted five months and effectively cut Deere's stock sales in half. On the heels of the Farm Crisis and an already challenging year for Deere, workers fought for higher wages, retirement benefits and job security. 

The strikes began in August 1986 with a partial strike, with only Dubuque, Milan and Waterloo plants. Two days in, John Deere stopped production in 11 other facilities, and the UAW declared it a lockout. 

Negotiations between the UAW and Deere didn't begin until October of that year, well over a month into striking. By late November, a new contract was proposed but was rejected in early December. 

After a stalemate that lasted over two months, a state court judge ordered Deere and the UAW to return to negotiations, and following a seven hour-long process, they proposed the second tentative deal that would later pass.

On February 1st, 1987, the deal was ratified. The conflict was the longest strike ever against Deere, lasting 163 days, or more than five months. 

Today's strike has garnered a lot of community support since the beginning. The Iowa City Mutual Aid Collective has spent the last month working with Union Halls to give them what they need.

"These people are going to need more support as we get further and further from the last time they got a full paycheck," Stephany Hoffelt said.

She knows how hard the strike can be on families and is worried about the upcoming holiday season with family members who worked for Deere herself.

"It's getting colder, and with Thanksgiving coming up for the people who celebrate that, it's going to be a hard year," she said.

The collective brings together anything from non-perishable foods to regular grocery items for the workers and delivers them to union halls across Iowa involved. 

Hoffelt feels it's the least she can do for the workers on the picket line.

"They're still out there, and they need our support," she said.