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Politicians in Iowa are reacting to thousands of John Deere factory workers on strike

John Deere tractor
Thousands of John Deere workers went on strike Thursday after their union rejected a contractor offer that included five or six percent raises.

On Thursday, 10,000 John Deere factory workers in several states, including in Iowa, went on strike for the first time in 35 years. That includes 6,600 employees at plants in Waterloo, Davenport, Ankeny, Dubuque and Ottumwa. United Auto Workers union members rejected a six-year contract proposal that offered five or six percent raises and would have ended pensions for workers hired in the future.

Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said late Thursday afternoon that the workers were exercising their collective bargaining rights.

"That's a decision those workers made, and, under the laws, we have to respect it.” Grassley said to reporters after IPR asked what message he had for the factory workers. “I don't have anything to say about it, because I don't know the issues that are at stake. And I didn't even know they were on strike, except you told me."

Grassley said he did not think the strike was going to impact farmers as much as disruptions in the supply chain and their ability to get computer chips for farm machinery.

“Tractors are so modernized now and so technically advanced that I don't think that that's as much of a problem as the supply chain problem," Grassley said at a press conference he held following a meeting with employees at UPS in Des Moines on Thursday.

Iowa Democratic leaders said they’re standing in solidarity with the workers who went on strike. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said going on strike is the last thing workers want to do.

“It’s costly and it’s difficult for working families because they’re not getting a paycheck,” Rep. Wilburn of Ames said. “But following a year where John Deere made record profits and their CEO got 160% raise, workers deserve to share in the family’s financial success.”

Wilburn said Democrats are the party of the middle class, and they believe working families are entitled to good wages and benefits.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has not issued an official statement but told the Quad City Times on Thursday that she had not spoken with John Deere officials about the strike.

“This is a good company,” Reynolds said. “They’ve been invested in Iowa for a long time so I’m confident they’ll be able to find resolution and hopefully they’ll be able to do that sooner rather than later.”

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter