'John Deere made billions and threw us peanut shells': Striking workers speak out

'John Deere made billions and threw us peanut shells': Striking workers speak out

Liberal economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, along with union leaders, have often complained that the salaries of CEOs of large companies have been increasingly much more rapidly than the salaries of their rank-and-file employees. Such complaints are now being made by striking employees of John Deere, which manufactures agricultural machinery and other heavy equipment.

More Perfect Union has tweeted a video explaining why the workers are angry. John Deere's CEO John C. May made $15.6 million in 2020, while its workers are only getting a raise of two or three dollars per hour over a three-year period.

In the video, John Deere employee Chris Laursen explains, "I've been working at John Deere for 19 years now. The reason why we're striking is 1997 is when Deere divided and conquered. They made the two-tier wage system where new hires coming in after the first of October 1997, you know, got paid less wages, didn't have health care after retirement — a pension which is about a third of our predecessors. And, you know, we've basically been taking concessions from that point for the last 25 years."

Laursen noted that May "got a 160% raise."

"Look," Lauren says in the video, "I make $20.82, I think, an hour…. We sent a strong, clear message to John Deere that, you know, a $1 raise an hour is not going to do much for me."

John Deere, the video notes, wants to end its pension system entirely for new hires.

Also featured in the video is Michelle Lundy, a welder for John Deere who makes $19.60 an hour.

"Just for the whole factory," Lundy says in the video, "I think they need a $5 raise across the board just for the fact that we can go to a fast food place and make as much money and not wear our bodies down."

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