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Over 100 union members picket outside John Deere headquarters

Employees from all eight Iowa and Illinois Deere facilities attended. The organizer tells News 8 the event shows solidarity to both Deere and UAW leaders.

MOLINE, Ill. — John Deere union members gathered for a picket at the company’s headquarters in Moline, IL, on Monday afternoon. The peaceful demonstration was to show solidarity and a united front in the wake of a divided contract vote on Nov. 2.

Over 100 union employees attended, with representatives from all eight of John Deere’s Iowa and Illinois facilities. Members from locals in Waterloo, Dubuque, Des Moines, Ottumwa, Davenport, Milan, Moline and East Moline were present.

The picket was not sanctioned by the UAW Union. Instead, Shannon Olsson, a John Deere employee out of Waterloo, organized the event.

Attendees were asked to make their own signs, which many did. Homemade posters declared, “We stand united,” and “Better wages, better employees.” Others read, “Make John Deere great again,” “We win this together,” and “Scare tactics will not work.”

It came as the strike entered its 26th day.

RELATED: The strike continues: UAW turns down renegotiated contract agreement with Deere & Co.

Across the picket lines, union members smiled and laughed with each other, with some even hugging employees from different locals. One employee, carrying a megaphone, cheered and blasted the horn’s siren sound every time a car honked as it passed. Chants occasionally broke out (“Union?” “Strong!” “Union?” “Strong!”), and a community member even stopped by with boxes of free donuts at one point.

But despite the relaxed mood, there was a sense of determination from many of the gathered picketers.

One member could be heard saying, “I just love my company. I just want them to love me as much as I love them!”

“This is about uniting all locals all across the nation,” said organizer Shannon Olsson, a Deere worker of over 10 years. “Coming together and fighting for our futures, our families and all blue collar workers across the nation.”

Olsson said Monday’s picket was about uniting different locals and making a stand of unity in a place that’s hard for Deere to ignore.

“I think it’s going to show them that we mean business,” he said. “Our futures are important to us. And our futures need to be important to them.”

Although Olsson voted ‘no’ and wanted to reject the second tentative contract agreement reached by Deere and the UAW, he said Monday’s gathering was for all union and community members, no matter what they thought of the offer.

“It is a last stand,” he said. “It’s not to tell (members) to vote ‘no’ or to vote ‘yes.’ We’re all still a part of the same thing here. We’re still a part of the same fight, whether it gets voted down or it gets voted in. We’re still a part of the same fight together and they should be here fighting with us.”

He explains that he voted against the second contract, which was rejected by just 55% of union members, because he felt it was ‘pushing crumbs’ toward members, who deserve a ‘bigger piece of the pie.’

RELATED: 'I voted yes' | Why 1 John Deere union member says he feels held hostage by his union

“I truly feel that they need to at least bring something else to the table to add to that TA in order for people to be able to vote in favor of that contract,” Olsson told News 8.

Also on Monday’s picket lines was Brian Olsson, Shannon’s brother, and a Waterloo Deere employee for nearly 15 years. He told News 8 the event was to let the company know that so-called ‘scare tactics’ wouldn’t work, but send a message to union leaders as well.

“We’re here today to raise the standard of living, not just for John Deere workers, but for all blue collar workers across our communities,” he said. “We’re also here to let the international (union leaders) know that the fight’s not over and they need to get back to work and not bring back the second TA that was voted down. Go do your job.”

Brian Olsson said the John Deere strike will have a ripple effect on all of the communities that house facilities and workers.

“If our standard raises, then the community standard raises up to that. So you’re talking about the impact of everybody in our community, which can include your aunts, uncles, fathers, brothers and sisters,” said Brian Olson. “We’re pretty passionate about this. We think we deserve way more than what Deere’s given.”

In a statement to News 8, Deere & Company’s PR Director, Jen Hartmann, responded to Monday’s picket by saying the business respects when members voice their opinions.

“John Deere respects its employees’ desire to voice their opinions. One of the things that has made John Deere’s relationship with our employees and the UAW strong for nearly 80 years is our shared interest in better understanding one another’s views. This mutual respect has allowed us to reach collective bargaining agreements that provide our employees with the opportunity to earn the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in our industries, while also maintain our competitiveness in an increasingly challenging environment. We remain committed to this approach in our ongoing negotiations with the UAW.”

RELATED: Deere spokesperson says rejected contract is 'last, best and final offer' for union workers

When we read Shannon Olsson Deere’s statement, he said it was full of scare tactics.

“I don’t think that (Deere) understands what our interests really are and what our needs are for our families and our communities,” he said. “People need to stay strong and stand united. We’ll get through this fight.”

Neither side of the strike has confirmed if negotiations are currently ongoing. There is no word yet on when a third contract ratification vote might occur.

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