Striking John Deere workers rejected a second tentative agreement (TA) by a vote of 45% “yes” to 55% “no” on Tuesday. The new TA was a significant improvement from the first one, which was overwhelmingly rejected. This was after being on strike for two weeks, which proves what Oaklandsocialist said previously: That John Deere strikers can win it all and transform the labor movement.
One member, Douglas Woolam, explained that his father, when he retired from Deere was making more than he (Douglas) is making now. He also explained that the majority of the workers would remain at the low end of the pay scale. “I’m not thinking about me,” he said. “I’m thinking about people behind me. My dad thought about people behind him. My aunt thought about people behind her. And my grandfather thought about people behind him.”
Another member, Larry Cullison, explained that he voted “no” because of what appears to be a complicated “incentive” program that is difficult to enforce. This leaves the company freedom to cheat and chisel on bonuses based on production quotas. Cullison’s suspicions seem confirmed by the statement of Marc Howze, chief administrative officer for Deere. Commenting on the contract, he said it would enable Deere to “sharpen our competitive edge,” meaning getting more for less from the workers.
This rejection of a second TA is more evidence that a trend is starting:
- Last summer, striking Volvo workers (also UAW) rejected three unsatisfactory TA’s before being starved into accepting a fourth one. Even then, the vote was extremely close: 1147 “yes” to 1130 “no”.
- Carpenters in Western Washington rejected four tentative agreements this fall. They forced their regional council to call a strike, one which could not have been more clearly designed to fail. (See video of union picketing empty construction site.) A fifth TA was “passed”, however it is now coming out that the union regional leadership cheated in the counting of the ballots in at least one of those votes, so nobody knows what is the real state of affairs. (Oaklandsocialist hopes to have an update soon.)
- IATSE (theater and stage hands) have yet to ratify a contract. Nobody knows how that will go.
Same Issue; New Situation
It’s the same issue in a new situation. For many decades now, the union leadership has been dedicated to helping the employers make a profit. As UAW member Justin Mayhugh put it in an interview with Oaklandsocialist: “It’s the idea of business unionism…. The union leaders have convinced themselves that what’s good for the company is good for the workers… [The union leadership is] “more like a PR firm for the company, or they’re more like a buffer between the company and us.”
A movement from below within the unions seems to be gathering. This is a rejection of the effects of the pro-company policies of the union leadership. In the case of the Western Washington carpenters, a union caucus was formed called the Peter J. McGuire Group (named after the Carpenters Union’s founder). This is the group that has organized the resistance to these employer-friendly contracts and policies. Similar caucuses are needed throughout the unions. A step in that direction would be for union fighters, those who oppose the pro-company policies, to discuss their experiences and draw conclusions together. As a retired carpenter with many years fighting these same policies, the administrator of this blog – John Reimann – participated in and reported extensively on the Western Washington carpenters struggle. (scroll down through blog.) We hope now to help all these union fighters to come together in a zoom meeting. Contact oaklandsocialist for zoom details (email email@example.com).