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John Deere union workers vote down new contract

John Deere officials said operations will continue as normal after union employees voted against a new contract agreement.

MOLINE, Ill. — UPDATE: John Deere union workers voted down a new contract agreement Sunday, Oct. 10.

John Deere management said this means operations will continue as normal following this announcement.

“After weeks of negotiations, John Deere reached tentative agreements with the UAW that would have made the best wages and most comprehensive benefits in our industries significantly better for our employees,” said Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company. “John Deere remains fully committed to continuing the collective bargaining process in an effort to better understand our employees’ viewpoints."

No word on whether union employees will call a strike. 

ORIGINAL: Hundreds of John Deere union workers gathered Sunday at the TaxSlayer Center to vote on the new tentative six-year contract. Union workers across the country met to vote as well. 

The outcome of the vote is unknown right now. Before voting, employees listened to a presentation about it. 

Several employees told News 8 off camera they voted against the contract, and said they'll be surprised if it's passed. One said that the presentation felt like chaos. People are unhappy with the contract and voiced their opinions. 

Laura Hagen has worked at John Deere for 18 years as a CNC operator. She said she "100% disagrees" with the contract. She's retiring next year but said she voted no on behalf of the younger generations of workers. 

"They (John Deere) made record breaking profits … this year," Hagen said. 

She and several others said they felt like, because of this, they should earn more.

Union workers were concerned about wages, pensions and health care benefits. 

Currently, workers don't have to pay for healthcare and it isn't taken out of their paycheck, but workers said they want their healthcare to continue to be provided post-retirement. Instead, John Deere has included a bonus, so workers are offered a certain amount of money to offset the costs. 

A union member previously told News 8 this isn't nearly enough to offset the costs of healthcare and what it takes to pay for doctors visits, for example. 

Pensions will go up for employees hired between October 1997 and Nov. 1, 2021. Anyone hired after that will be enrolled in a cash balanced plan. 

"The new kids coming in, they really have nothing to offer them," Hagen said. "They have no retirement. They have no health insurance. Why would you want to work in a shop that offers no benefits for your later years?"

Those in pay levels one through three will receive a 6% wage increase, while those in pay levels four through seven will receive a 5% increase. Employees working the second and third shift will receive a work premium pay increase from 60 cents to $1 an hour.

The tentative contract agreement affects 10,000 workers at 12 John Deere plants in five states and 11 cities, including five in Iowa and three in Illinois. If the contract gets voted down, the union can either continue to negotiate a new contract, or workers will be authorized to go on strike. It is a majority vote, meaning every union member was able to cast a vote, and one plant's employees can't entirely pass or fail the agreement on its own. 

The last time John Deere union employees went on strike was in 1986. It lasted 163 days.