John Deere spent the last few months feeding lines about supposed great pay and benefits while 10,000 plant workers went on strike for five weeks. Now that it’s reached a contract agreement with the union, it can breathe easy and release the profits! $6 billion so far, with $7 billion on the end-of-year horizon. That’s already double its profits from last year. Some of that’s from charging farmers a premium for its proprietary replacement parts. Some of it’s from not paying workers a little more out of that comfortable surplus.
The final union-approved contract, close to Deere’s preceding “best and final offer,” grants 10% pay raises in 2021 and 20% raises overall in four years. That sounds great, until you learn that a 10% increase could mean pay bumps of less than $4,000 for some longtime workers. John Deere has said that, on average, employees already made around $60,000; labor reporter Jonah Furman has said that’s just an alternate reality, factoring in habitual, months-long unpaid layoffs.
Employees can supposedly get to a decent salary with performance-based raises, but those aren’t guaranteed, Furman says, since they’re contingent on the whole department meeting 115% of its ever-increasing quota.
In a press release about John Deere’s 2021 financials, Chairman and CEO John C. May said the contract represents “our ongoing commitment to delivering best-in-class wages and benefits.” This is true, for him: The company gave him an over 150% raise last year to $15.5 million.
For everyone else, we know that thousands of workers only strike when things are so egregious that losing a month and a half of pay and putting your income on the line looks like the best option for your future.
Gizmodo was unable to reach John Deere for comment. We’ll update the post if we hear back.