As UAW workers returned to the picket lines on Day 19, bundled up against the cold, they were hours away from voting on a new tentative agreement.
Deere & Co. and the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America reached a tentative six-year agreement on Oct. 30 covering about 10,100 production and maintenance employees at 12 facilities in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. The UAW members will vote on the agreement Tuesday.
Both sides declined comment Monday, saying they would respect the process of evaluation and voting.
Paul Iversen, labor expert at the University of Iowa Labor Center, said it is impossible to speculate how the vote will go.
“But one thing is clear that the strike has been successful in the sense that the membership has stuck together, and the community has supported them,” Iversen said.
The new tentative agreement offers improved wages and benefits from the initial agreement, which was overwhelmingly voted down Oct. 10.
According to a contract summary, workers would receive an immediate 10% increase in wages in the first year and an additional 5% in the third and fifth years. But some of that increase is tied to inflation.
Base rate wage increases are the same as the rejected agreement, but cost of living adjustments (COLA) have been added to the new one.
One Milan union member said the reinstatement of COLA was enough to vote in favor of the contract.
“It is a huge improvement over the first contract,” they said. “It checked boxes that were what caused me to vote no the first time.”
But a worker at Davenport Works didn't like that the increase is dependent on inflation rates, which are estimated by economists. They planned to vote no, because of the uncertainty that brings.
There would be no changes in the cost of health insurance under the new agreement. Workers would pay $0 in premiums, have no deductibles or coinsurance, and no changes in co-pays.
Current and future union workers would choose between the traditional-plus and choice-plus retirement plans. The Milan worker said having the pension option accessible to all employees , current or future, was a win for the workforce.
The last offer said those hired before 1997 would have a full pension and health care plan at retirement. Those hired after 1997 would have a smaller pension and a 401(k), but no health care. Under the rejected proposal, those hired on or after Nov. 1 would only have a 401(k).
Iverson said the UAW’s demands may not all be met, but that this offer raise the bar for future negotiations.
“It's not a loss to not get everything that you asked for,” Iversen said. “It's the overall framework, and the quality of the agreement that determines whether it's worth passing.”
Ratification voting is unique to each local, but will take place in-person on Tuesday.
A Milan worker said if the contract is not ratified the strike will go on.
“It is in my opinion that it is a fair agreement,” the worker said. “But if it winds up not passing I am going to get back on the line and continue to fight.”