UAW elections chair in Davenport threatened workers with retaliation for opposing contract
The UAW elections chairman for Local 281 in Davenport, Iowa, Phil Gonterman, threatened to use his position as an inspector to retaliate against workers who vocally opposed the second tentative agreement between the UAW and Deere. The comments were made in the “Our Davenport Works” Facebook Group and were shared with the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter by a worker who wished to remain anonymous.
“I hope any welder-machinist that talked big and bad about how they were voting it down based on their stupid hamster wheel brain understanding doesn’t hate red,” Gonterman wrote sometime after the second vote on November 2. “Because I’m going to f**k their lights out for every quality issue. Yeah, you all know who you are.”
The worker said that the vote today was carried out in an atmosphere of intimidation. “We had to do all of our votes in the wide open for UAW Local 281 with no privacy and people could see how you were voting.”
That a UAW election chair made such thuggish threats and nevertheless continued to oversee the vote today—while hardly surprising given the UAW’s known corruption, bribetaking and criminal track record—further confirms that the entire process overseen by this “union” has been undemocratic and illegitimate. No contract supposedly agreed to by workers under such obvious duress and intimidation can be considered legally binding.
Gonterman has not been alone in his threats. In a Facebook comment, Local 281 Vice President Brian Ripple said he hoped Deere would shift work from the Waterloo, Iowa, plants—the center of opposition to each of the pro-company UAW deals—to Mexico.
Ripple’s statement was in reply to a post by Gonterman seeking to whip up reactionary nationalist divisions and scare workers with threats of outsourcing should the contract again be rejected. “Who’s coming to visit me in Mexico when I’m making Deere equipment in 3 years?” Gonterman wrote.
Ripple replied, “I’d say Waterloo might be a better candidate to ship out.”
The latest revelations of the vicious pressure campaign and conflicts of interests by UAW officials underscore what the WSWS has repeatedly warned: the UAW bureaucracy, from the local level to the very top, function as paid enforcers for management, tasked with ramming through the company’s terms and suppressing opposition among workers.
Workers must draw the necessary conclusions and join and build the Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee, which has presented the only organized resistance to the conspiracies and attacks of the UAW and company.
Preliminary vote totals
East Moline, Illinois (Local 865): YES 60% (yes) – 40% (no)
Moline, Illinois (Local 434): YES 79% (yes) – 21% (no)
Atlanta, Georgia (Local 472): YES 78% (yes) – 22% (no)
Waterloo, Iowa (Local 838):
Dubuque, Iowa (Local 94):
Davenport, Iowa (Local 281):
Des Moines, Iowa (Local 450):
Milan, Illinois (Local 79):
Ottumwa, Iowa (Local 74):
Coffeyville, Kansas (Local 2366):
Denver, Colorado (Local 186):
Wait for results begins as voting draws to a close at several locals
We’re still waiting on results but that may not be known until later tonight. Polling closed at the locals in Davenport and Des Moines, Iowa at 1pm central time. Polls have also just closed at the Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois at 4pm central. The closing times at other locations were not immediately available. Waterloo, the largest local and center of opposition to the TA, continues voting until 7pm central, under an undemocratic voting method which splits workers up alphabetically into a dozen different voting sessions.
The only results so far have been from the small parts distribution center in Atlanta Georgia. Workers voted for the contract by 77 percent to 22 percent. This was also the first local to report in the last vote. This is a larger margin than when it voted to earlier this month in favor of the contract by 63 to 37 percent. However, this is not necessarily an indicator of the national results as the number of voters at the local is less than 1 percent of the total. However, turnout at the plant, where the UAW campaigned heavily for a ‘yes’ vote, did decline from 92 to 83, according to one worker.
While the tentative agreement was rejected two weeks ago by a 10 point margin, the ‘no’ votes were heavily concentrated in a few large locals, especially Waterloo and Dubuque. Several, mostly smaller locals around the country voted in favor of the deal by smaller margins. This means that, for the UAW and management, the path towards ratification–aside from the ever-present danger of ballot-stuffing, which workers must be on guard against–appears to depend on two factors.
First, they must increase the margin of victory at those locals, such as Des Moines, Ottumwa and Davenport, which voted in favor of the contract two weeks ago. Second, both the margin and the turnout at the major centers of opposition, above all Waterloo, must decline by a sufficient amount to reduce the weight of the ‘no’ votes at these locations in the national totals.
Significantly, Deere management, which had been on a PR blitz in recent weeks, taking out targeted ads on social media to campaign for the deal and contacting hundreds of local businesses near Deere plants in an attempt to mobilize opposition to the strike, has gone completely radio silent since the UAW announced the re-vote on Friday. In fact, the PR offensive continues, but with the UAW as the mouthpiece. Workers at Waterloo have reported that UAW officials and “helpers” have been campaigning aggressively for a yes vote at the union hall yesterday and today.
However, opposition to the contract remains high. For workers, the path towards defeating the re-vote depends upon their vigilance against ballot stuffing by the union and upon their ability to defy the union’s campaign aimed at isolating and demoralizing them. Workers report that some who had voted in favor of the contract have now said they have flipped to a ‘no’ vote on principle, in opposition to the union’s attempt to override the results from two weeks ago.
More information will be posted as we receive it.
Mack Trucks workers issue statement in support of a “no” vote at Deere
The Mack Trucks Rank-and-File Committee, founded in the midst of the strike at Volvo Trucks earlier this summer, has published the following statement:
The Mack Trucks Workers Rank-and-File Committee expresses its strong solidarity with striking workers at John Deere and calls on them to vote down the sellout contract put forward by the United Auto Workers by the widest possible margin.
You are not alone. Right now, across many industries and across the globe many workers are striking or pushing for strike action to fight for their own rights and material gains.
Workers are realizing their value, rising inflation pushes more and more of us into battle against the corporations’ attempts to push us further into poverty. But far from carrying out a fight to maintain our living standards, the UAW is shielding the companies, setting up a series of hurdles in a bid to force workers to accept concessions.
The tactics the UAW is employing at John Deere, forcing you to re-vote on a contract you already rejected, are the same sellout tactics that it pioneered against our Volvo Trucks coworkers at New River Valley Volvo earlier this year to shut down their five-week strike.
Even more autoworkers around the country back the Deere strike
A worker at Ford Chicago Assembly Plant wrote in to support for the striking John Deere workers. When he heard that the UAW was ignoring to the demands of workers, he drew connections with his experiences at CAP.
“That’s like what was happening to us here. I started in [late 2019] and brought it to the attention of the UAW reps that [our group] needed a raise because of what was in the contract. And now over a year and a half later, they finally figured out we needed a raise and that’s what we had been asking since negotiations.
“They took some things away in the last contract and said they would give a $9,000 signing bonus. Well, you have to think in the long term. $9,000 was nothing, now everything’s going up [with inflation]. And they didn’t want us to go on strike.
“What I would say to [the striking Deere workers] is, ‘You shouldn’t be underpaid. You have to draw a line in the sand. Fight for what you believe in.’”
A General Motors worker and veteran of the 2019 GM strike said, “I witnessed how the bought-off UAW fast-tracked another garbage contract during the GM strike. GM had made $35 billion in gross profit the year before and the UAW accepted their poor-mouth ‘this is all we can give.’ Stay strong.”
A Dana worker said, ‘Deere revote is a load of crap. They’re [UAW] trying to stall them out while guys on picket line trying to make this right. The company has resources, share it with people who gave you the profits. It’s not right, like Dana profiting off of us.’
A Ford autoworker added, ‘Good day to all strikers, hope you all are holding up well. Today is an important day for all of you and I wish you well. Stay strong, keep your head up, and stay warm. I believe in you and your fight. God bless you, we all are all counting on you to help the rest of us when out contract comes up.
‘From your friend at Ford.’
Other workers sent in short statements:
“Keep up the good fight,” one said. “Don’t let corporate America push you around. I support you all the way.”
Another wrote, “Don’t let the UAW sell you out, like they did to the Volvo workers in Virginia. Stay strong and stay out until you get the contract you want.”
“I am behind you 100 percent,” a steelworker in Indiana said.
“Vote that third TA down!” More statements of support from workers
The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter continues to receive statements of support from workers and readers. Send in your statements of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One wrote, “Stay strong and only trust your gut, not those who sit at the bargaining table. Demand to read the whole agreement and look at that signing bonus. That is the real factor. Our past has proven if it’s large they’re hiding the stink!”
Another worker wrote, “To all those fighting and sacrificing to make our country a better place for our children, we support you!
‘The battle will not be won until we all join together. The UAW leadership must be the first group to be dealt with! Fire them! Forcibly remove them, whatever it takes! Only then, can we deal directly with the criminals on the executive team!
“Much love and total support!”
Another said, “I support your strike as it continues. I hope you can hang in until you get everything you want. You are all an inspiration! I pray for your safety as I know strikes can become violent. I have little experience with unions but have learned a lot lately as I continue to monitor the strikes. My dad was in a union and I remember him being on strike, probably in the early to mid-60s. I have always felt I would have done better working under a union. You have shown me that is not the case as the unions are in corporates pockets. Vote that third TA down!”
UAW locals banning all discussion on their Facebook pages in lead-up to the vote
With balloting already underway, UAW locals at John Deere are continuing to prohibit all discussion on their Facebook pages. For weeks, page administrators have turned off commenting on all posts, whether they are related to the contract or not. The obvious purpose of this, much like the staggered voting schedule at Waterloo, is to deny workers a forum to express their opposition to the contract.
What else will the UAW not allow Deere workers to criticize? Apparently, the union’s log splitting machine and chili dogs:
More Deere workers call for defeat of sellout contract
A Waterloo Deere worker sent the following statement to the World Socialist Web Site:
If we accept this offer, we lose money. Don’t let this be the company’s last stand by manipulating us by telling us what we could “potentially” make. Anyone who has been with this company long enough knows how CIPP works and that it is a tool the company uses to keep our pay down. Vote no, stand strong, not only for you, but for our future generations.
Another Waterloo worker described the full-court press by the local UAW to pass the contract:
I was at my local hall yesterday and was subjected to a hall employee trying to convince me that this was the contract we need. Maybe since she is getting close to retirement she thinks it’s good. For us it is NOT! It is only a decent contract if you intend to retire before the next contract. UAW SELLOUT CONTRACT is what this is AGAIN!
Send your comments and statements to email@example.com.
Auto parts worker backs “no” vote at Deere
A Faurecia auto parts worker member of the John Deere strike solidarity committee from Saline, Michigan sent the following statement:
I don’t think it’s fair [that voting in Waterloo, Iowa will be separated into 12 groups voting an hour apart], and I think that’s a way for them to control the vote. They are probably having somebody talk to each one of those groups to pressure them into accepting the contract. That is deceitful. They are underhanded. The workers already spoke. They said bring them a new contract.
The union is an agent of the company. They are not listening to what 90 percent of the workers want. They are trying to force through what management wants. No matter what the workers want, the union is going to keep pushing a re-vote until they get what they want. That is a political tactic. They will falsify the vote if they can get away with it.
They might as well stop saying there is a contract vote because they are just doing whatever the company wants and you don’t have any rights. The union represents the company.
When we got our contract, it was totally different from what they went over during the informational meeting. That was just lies. People were raising their hands asking questions, and the union was just telling lies.
We need the rank and file committees to directly represent us. We need to get rid of the unions. The corporations have the unions doing their dirty job for them. It’s like slave labor. Without the workers they don’t have production, they don’t have anything.
Editorial cartoon: UAW President Ray Curry gets his marching orders
Waterloo “no” voter reports on the mood among Deere workers
The WSWS received the following comment from an Deere worker. Send your own statements to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just got home from voting NO here in Waterloo.
[My coworkers] believe there’s no way the International is going to let this be voted down again even though they voted NO too.
They believe the company and the union have been in cahoots from the beginning and both want us back before Uncle John announces their 4th quarter earnings on the 24th and the union wants us back in so we can pay our dues for the month of November.
I pray enough folks are still mad as hell at Uncle John, Becky Guinn, the union, and the lack of retirement healthcare & full pension that they continue HOLDING THE LINE.
If this thing goes to arbitration or whatever, at least I can sleep at night knowing I fought the whole way and DID NOT QUIT.
UAW Local president uses scare tactics against “no” vote
The Des Moines Register reports that Chad Kaiser, president of UAW Local 94 in Dubuque, has issued threats on Facebook that a “no” vote would result in the company declaring an impasse and hiring strikebreakers.
According to the paper, “Kaiser wrote that Deere could make a strong case that it has bargained in good faith with the union since late August, meaning UAW officials would struggle to convince a judge to force the company back to the table.”
It continues, “Kaiser, the Dubuque UAW leader, wrote that Deere, in an impasse, could hire permanent, non-union replacements. While companies have to put unionized employees on a preferential list for rehiring after a strike, managers don’t have to fire replacements or bring back all of the strikers immediately. They also do not have to bring employees back based on seniority rules.”
However, there are growing signs that the strike is beginning to seriously impact Deere’s financials. Reuters reports: “The striking workers are getting a good amount of community support, which further reinforces their push, UBS analyst Steven Fisher, citing a professor of labor relations, wrote in a research note.
“Deere has so far refused to comment on the impact of the strike on production, but Bernstein analyst Chad Dillard estimates the company will forecast fiscal 2022 net income below Wall Street expectations, in part due to the strike impact, when it reports results next Wednesday.”
Deere workers denounce UAW sellout deal and call for continued strike action
Send in your statements of support for the strike at email@example.com.
“This ‘new’ offer is pathetic!” a veteran worker at one of the company’s plants in Waterloo, Iowa, told the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter. “All they did was put lipstick on a pig by offering to give us more of our own money each week.
“CIPP is a joke! We call it ‘Cut In Personal Pay.’ No one wants it, yet the International and Local think it’s a good thing. All it does is pit union members against each other. Deere just needs to get rid of CIPP and just give us a decent raise instead of nickel and diming us every year.”
The worker said that Deere is acting as though the ratification of the contract is a done deal. “Salary folks have come through some gates and said they’d see us at work Thursday. They’re taking down barricades and expecting us back at work on Thursday, but we have not even voted yet.”
In a powerful statement, a Deere worker in Des Moines and member of the Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee said, “Tomorrow we will find out if we were strong enough to resist scare tactics unleashed against us by John Deere while our union stood by watching and rooting for the company, hoping to break us and make us submit to its demands.”
Addressing himself to his fellow workers, he continued, “Do not forget years and years of struggle that working men and women faced and overcame so we can enjoy the fruits of their victories. Unlike us, they did not have the favorable conditions we have today, yet they prevailed and delivered the working-class benefits we enjoy today. Our predecessors had to fight for every little thing: eight-hour workdays, child labor laws, vacations, breaks, overtime pay and the rights to organize, to collectively bargain, to have health care and retirement. Nobody gave them these things out of the goodness of their heart. They stood up to corporations, politicians, and their strikebreakers, they resisted physical violence so they, their families, and us today can have all of these things.
“So what are we afraid of today? Ask yourself that question. Are we going to stand up for ourselves, our families, and generations to come? Or are we going to concede to the company in its demands without making a real stand? Unity is what makes our strength, and the company knows that. This fear of it is why the company is trying to divide us.
“I urge you to see through these scare tactics, hold the line, and vote NO tomorrow for the better future of all working-class people in the USA and the world whose support we have.”
Three reasons why Deere cannot endure a long strike
More than 10,100 John Deere workers, on strike for more than a month, are voting Wednesday on what the company calls its “last, best and final” offer. Defying the will of the striking workers, the United Auto Workers is forcing workers to vote on a contract that is virtually identical to the one they voted down on November 2.
The John Deere Workers Rank-and-File Committee has called on workers to reject the sellout deal, which ignores workers’ demands for a $10 an hour wage to make up for 25 years of UAW-backed concessions, as well as fully paid retiree health benefits for every generation of Deere workers. Throughout the US and, in fact, the world workers are looking to the Deere strikers to defy the blackmail by Deere and the union and to press forward and expand their struggle.
The strike has already had a significant impact on Deere, but the UAW is acting to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
However, an examination of the company’s situation makes it clear that it cannot weather a long strike.
The Deere strike is in danger!
Over the weekend, workers from Deere, the auto and film production industries, and educators met to discuss the urgent issues confronting the Deere strike, which is in its second month and has reached a critical turning point.
For more information on joining the Deere Strike Rank-and-File Solidarity Committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text (484) 514-9797.
* * *
The Deere Strike Rank-and-File Solidarity Committee calls on all working people to come to the defense of the strike by 10,000 John Deere workers, which the United Auto Workers union is seeking to shut down and betray.
Last Friday night, the UAW announced that it was scheduling a vote for this Wednesday on the company’s so-called “last, best and final offer.” The contract proposal contained only “modest modifications,” the UAW admitted, to the agreement workers already voted to reject by 55 percent on November 2.
In fact, the latest contract changes would promote even greater speedup and unsafe working conditions via the company’s pay-for-performance scheme, CIPP. At the same time, yet another pro-corporate “joint” UAW-management committee would be established, tasked with overseeing “corrective actions” to those teams whose productivity falls behind the company’s grueling benchmarks.
The UAW is once again attempting to trample on workers’ democratic rights, just as they did at Volvo Trucks earlier this year.
With the company making record profits and struggling to hire and meet rising demand, Deere workers are saying: The era of concessions and givebacks is over! Now is the time to go on the offensive and win back everything the unions have bargained away over the last 40 years.
The time has come to show the powers-that-be what real solidarity and the collective strength of the working class looks like.
The Deere Strike Rank-and-File Solidarity Committee is composed of Deere workers, auto and auto parts workers, educators, nurses, and others who want to see this struggle succeed.