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More than 10,000 workers at Deere’s U.S. factories went on strike Thursday, marking the tractor maker’s first major strike in 35 years after employees turned down a proposed employment contract.

The United Auto Workers union said its members officially went on strike at midnight and started picket lines outside the John Deere factories. The strike affected 14 facilities in Illinois, Iowa and Kansas.

Dozens of workers demonstrated at plants in Moline, Illinois Thursday morning, according to Quad-City Times, a local media company. UAW Local 838, which represents workers at Deere’s largest facility in Waterloo, Iowa, posted on its Facebook page that members should report to “strike duty” at 7:00 am local time.

Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations at Deere, said the company was “determined to reach an agreement with the UAW that would put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest paid workers in agriculture and construction.” . . “

On an employee website, Deere said some workers would enter their factories daily to keep operations going. “Our immediate concern is to meet the needs of our customers who work in time-sensitive and critical industries such as agriculture and construction,” it said.

Chuck Browning, vice president of the UAW, said workers are on strike for the “ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity, and establish fair labor rules.” Ray Curry, the union’s president, added that Deere employees have worked throughout the pandemic to make essential farming, construction and energy equipment.

The UAW tentatively approved a new employment contract two weeks ago, but a majority of its members rejected the agreement in a ratification vote.

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