John Deere says it's keeping up with customers' needs during the demanding harvest season, despite 10,000 of its employees represented by the United Auto Workers continuing an ongoing strike that began roughly a month ago.
Now, the agriculture equipment behemoth with a 77,000-strong workforce is looking ahead to ensure it maintains production at the same caliber during the spring planting season – whether the UAW strike is over or not.
Deere & Co. chief technology officer Jahmy Hindman told FOX Business the company has been using an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to keep operations humming at the dozen or so Midwest facilities impacted by the strike. He says salaried workers – including himself – are working the lines, and they're training more employees to do the same.
"My day job is not machining transmission housings for tractors," he said in an interview Thursday. "That's what I'm doing today."
The CTO went on to explain, "We have the good fortune of having manufacturing engineers who are intimately familiar with the manufacturing process, so they are the subject matter experts and they're taking a huge load on themselves right now to train effectively the rest of the workforce similar to how they would train UAW employees if they were new to the job or new to the factory."
Hindman also says Deere sees their "best solution is to get the UAW-represented folks – who do this job better than anybody – back in our factories and doing the work."
"That said," he continued, "we're exploring all options to attract the labor that we need in order to meet our other directive which is making sure that we don't disappoint customers with planting season, in particular, right around the corner."
He added, "I just want our customers to know that there are thousands of people within Deere right now, doing everything that they possibly can to make sure that we don't disappoint them and make sure they have the equipment that they need."
Deere's striking UAW workers rejected the company's initial tentative agreement with union negotiators by 90%, and turned down the second proposal with a 55% majority. The strike began Oct. 15.
The latest offer from Deere is the company's "last and final" according to the global manufacturer. It offers a 30% pay raise over the six-year term of the contract, along with boosted retirement benefits.
But workers are holding out for more, arguing that they worked elevated hours during the COVID-19 pandemic and pointing to the ongoing labor shortage as reasons that they deserve a bigger piece of Deere's record profits of $4.68 billion just in the first nine months of its 2021 fiscal year.
Deere's chief administrative officer, Marc Howze, told FOX Business last week that the offer still on the table for the impacted workers would cost the company roughly $6.8 billion.
The UAW said it did not have any updates on the strike when reached by FOX Business on Thursday.