Members of the United Auto Workers strike outside of a John Deere plant, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
So much for the party of workers.The GOP is coming for the 10,000 John Deere workers who’ve been on strike at John Deere since last month, blaming them for supply chain problems and attempting to pit workers against farmers, while slamming a Democratic Senate hopeful who’s backing the strike.
Approximately 10,000 workers at John Deere facilities in five states went on strike in mid-October, the majority of them in Iowa. The strike began after the United Auto Workers-affiliated Deere employees—who already receive different levels of benefits and compensation depending on if they were hired before or after 1997—rejected a proposed contract because of concerns about wages, benefits, and pensions, after a period in which the company smashed its profit record and CEO John May’s pay climbed 160 percent from 2019 to 2020, to a total of $16 million. Earlier this month, workers rejected another proposed contract, which a Deere executive said at the time was “our final and best offer.”Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in 2018 and narrowly lost re-election last year, has joined Deere workers on the picket lines and posted on social media about her support of the workers.
Finkenauer is seeking the Democratic nomination next year to challenge 88-year-old Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley. When asked about the strike after it began last month, Grassley told a reporter: “I don't have anything to say about it because I don't know the issues that are at stake. And I didn't even know they were on strike except you told me, but John Deere's workers don't go on strike very often.” (This is the first strike at John Deere since 1986.) Finkenauer came under fire from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans helping Grassley defend his seat—and in the process, the NRSC went after John Deere workers as well. “Far from actually representing the voices of hardworking Iowa farmers, Finkenauer is instead siding with union strikers whose actions are jeopardizing entire crops and the livelihood of farmers all across Iowa,” the NRSC said in a Thursday statement. The NRSC went on to baselessly suggest that striking workers were endangering the nation’s food supply, and said that the strike is “inflicting trauma on one of America’s most important demographics, the family farmer.”
In response, Finkenauer shot back that Grassley had used his 47 years in the Senate to "gut collective bargaining rights, slash critical worker protections, and let companies ship jobs to China." Grassley, like all Senate Republicans, also opposes the PRO Act, a Democratic proposal which would represent the largest expansion of workers’ rights in decades. “Let me be clear,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “If they want to attack me for standing with hardworking Iowans who give their all for their families like the very one I grew up in, all I can say is, more please.”
Despite Deere’s insistence that it was done negotiating, the company and the union are returning to the bargaining table Thursday in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois, Bloomberg reported. On the subject of the fight between Finkenauer and the NRSC, meanwhile, the UAW declined to comment. “Our focus continues to be on our hardworking UAW John Deere members and their families who are on strike,” United Auto Workers’ spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said in an email to VICE News.“We appreciate the overwhelming outpouring of community support for our UAW John Deere members and their families who are sacrificing on the picket line.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.