A farmer harvests corn near Slater, Iowa on Oct. 17, 2020. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
The ongoing strike of more than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers was expected to slow the flow of replacement parts to farmers who are busy harvesting their fields, but the true effects so far are unclear.
“We are not to be talking to reporters about it,” said a woman who answered the telephone at a John Deere dealership in southern Iowa.
Dealership employees across the state responded to questions in a similar fashion or simply didn’t return phone messages seeking comment for this article.
An exception was Tom Kuennen, store manager of Bodensteiner Implement Company in Decorah, who said: “Actually, things are going pretty good.” But he said he wasn’t really sure about potential supply shortages because he doesn’t work in the parts department, and that all of the employees of that department were too busy to talk to reporters.
Deere employees who are members of the United Auto Workers union have been on strike for nine days. They had overwhelmingly rejected a new contract agreement on Oct. 10, and negotiations began anew on Monday.
A Deere spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the negotiations and whether the company has advised its dealers to avoid talking with news media. Instead, the company announced it will maintain health care coverage for striking workers and pay bonuses to workers who exceeded their quotas prior to the strike, which the company refers to as its Continuous Improvement Pay Plan incentives.
The manager of a Deere dealership in Carroll told Iowa Capital Dispatch last week that some parts have been in short supply for months because of the coronavirus pandemic. He did not respond to a recent request to comment for this article.
Some Iowa farmers have serious concerns about the potential parts shortages from the strike, but Jeff Frank, who grows corn and soybeans near Auburn in western Iowa, said many farmers prepared for harvest by acquiring parts in advance.
“They told us before this to have stuff that you need on hand,” said Frank, who has already harvested his crops. “I don’t think it’s a real serious problem. Some guys are having to go a long ways to get parts, but that was happening before the strike.”
As of Monday, about 70% of the state’s soybean crop and 43% of the corn crop had been harvested, which is about a week ahead of the five-year average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Deere seeks to limit picket sites
Deere sought injunctions this week to limit pickets at its facilities in Davenport and Ankeny and alleged that striking workers attempted to block traffic and workers from entering the facilities. A judge ordered Davenport picketers to keep off driveways and away from a gate that allows workers to enter the facility without crossing a picket line, among other requirements.
The UAW’s last public statement on Wednesday said: “The bargaining committee continues to address the concerns of its membership with the company. We would like to thank our communities and members for their continued support.”
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