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Striking Deere & Co. workers vote on 3rd contract offer

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Picketers strike outside John Deere Seeding Group Wednesday in Moline. 

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Voting started Wednesday for more than 10,000 striking Deere & Co. employees. 

Moline-based Deere made its “last, best, and final” offer on Friday in hopes of ending the strike. Quad-City Deere workers headed to the polls starting at 10 a.m., with most sites closing at 2 p.m. 

Leaders on both sides declined comment, saying they wish to respect the process as rank-and-file union members begin to learn about the new offer.

The outcome of the vote was not available as of deadline. 

The first tentative agreement was overwhelmingly voted down on Oct. 10. The previous offer, which had improved wages and benefits from the initial agreement, was turned away Nov. 2 by a 55%-to-45% vote, with support from some Quad-City union locals but rejection from shops in Waterloo and Dubuque. The six-year contract would have covered about 10,100 production and maintenance employees at 12 facilities in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas.

Workers across locals said they expect this vote to also have a narrow margin. A union member from Davenport Works said he'd vote against the contract but predicted many others to vote differently.

“It's just kind of sad to me because there are people I know who voted no last time solidly with intelligent reasons why they waited it out,” the worker said. “I already know they're going to vote yes, this time just to suddenly go back to work."

Workers who'd seen details in the new contract said the changes focused largely on the company's incentives program, or Continuous Improvement Pay Program. Union members who've criticized the program said the changes do not address their concerns with the system.

Other than minor changes to CIPP, the third agreement offered the same benefits as the second agreement. The proposed contract does not include full health care benefits in retirement which is a deal breaker for some workers.

If the contract is ratified, some workers were told they should report back to work on Thursday. However, other workers said the plans are unclear and depending on how late results come in they might not return to work until later this week.

If the contract is voted down, workers will remain on strike.

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