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Milan restaurants offer free food to John Deere workers on strike

On Friday, Jim's Knoxville Tap brought pizza and pulled pork sandwiches to workers on the picket line, and The Pub was also offering free pulled pork sandwiches.

MILAN, Ill. — The Milan community is showing its support for John Deere workers on strike by offering free meals to the United Auto Workers union members. 

This as 10,000 John Deere workers across 14 plants in five states are back on the picket lines for a second day, after walking off the job due to failed contract negotiations.

On Friday morning, Jim's Knoxville Tap brought workers outside the John Deere Parts Distribution Center in Milan breakfast pizza and pulled pork sandwiches. 

"They've lost a lot over the years, a lot," Jim's Knoxville Tap Manager Nancy Louge said. "So we're here to help support them."

Louge said many John Deere workers are regular customers who helped support the bar throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"They're our friends, they're our family" she said. "We were in a bad spot through the pandemic when we couldn't even work, and we got good patrons. And now, it's time to give back to them."

The Pub was also offering UAW members free pulled pork sandwiches and bottled water Friday, while supplies last. All you have to do is show your UAW membership card. 

"They support us, and so we'll support them back," said Dimitris Roush, an employee at The Pub. "In times of need, then we'll have everyone working as one whole person instead of separate people doing their own thing."

When Louge showed up with the sandwiches, several Deere workers gave her a hug and expressed their gratitude. 

"We are all behind you," Louge said. "We are so behind you."

"It means the world," said John Deere employee Mitchell Bensenberg. "I mean, here we are, we're facing adversity, just trying to fight for what we deserve … We find we all need it, and we appreciate it all."

Bensenberg had been walking the picket line since 6 a.m. Friday morning. He said three to five different people stopped by with food, water, blankets, or even firewood to help keep them warm. 

He added he didn't expect this show of support, and he plans to return the favor. 

"If you guys need help, we'll be happy to help you guys back," Bensenberg said. "For all the restaurants that are giving us union people deals, we will be back to support you guys both."

Louge hopes the restaurants in Milan can work together to create a schedule to help make sure the workers on strike keep being fed. 

A Facebook group dedicated to helping support the strikers was also created.