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More than 10,000 John Deere workers on strike after rejecting contract

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Thousands of John Deere workers walked off the job early Thursday after members of the United Auto Workers union rejected the tractor maker’s contract offer, launching the latest strike by an emboldened labor movement.

The company’s offer included raises of 5 to 6 percent, but union officials said the proposed contract didn’t meet workers’ retirement and wage goals. With companies nationwide struggling to fill jobs and grappling with supply chain tie-ups, union officials say they are seizing the moment to regain benefits they lost in the late 1990s, when an era of assembly-line layoffs and outsourcing diminished unions’ leverage.

“The cards are in our favor right now … it’s never been lined up this well for us,” said Chris Laursen, a longtime worker at the John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Laursen pointed to the company’s record profits, as well as the huge pay raise awarded chief executive John May. “The labor shortage is in our favor too,” he said. “Deere can’t hire enough people with the package they’re offering right now.”

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John Deere spokeswoman Jen Hartmann said the company is committed to reaching a favorable outcome, one that would “put every employee in a better economic position and continue to make them the highest-paid employees in the agriculture and construction industries.”

The strike includes more than 10,000 workers at 14 Deere plants, including seven in Iowa, four in Illinois and one each in Kansas, Colorado and Georgia. The company has activated a continuity plan that will bring in nonunion employees to keep operations running. “Our immediate concern is meeting the needs of our customers, who work in time-sensitive and critical industries such as agriculture and construction,” Hartmann said.

The strikes are hitting a wide variety of industries, encompassing skilled assembly-line workers, nurses, pharmacists and Hollywood stagehands. Thousands have gone on strike at food plants operated by Kellogg’s, Nabisco and Frito-Lay over work hours, pay and benefits. On Monday more than 24,000 Kaiser Permanente workers authorized a strike over a new two-tiered pay and benefits system opposed by the union. And Hollywood production workers announced plans to strike Monday in pursuit of improved pay and working conditions.

All of them are asking for a larger share of pandemic-era profits, as many of these companies have seen their fortunes surge over the past year. John Deere, for example, saw its earnings reach a record $1.79 billion in the second quarter and operating profits hit $489 million.

The Moline, Ill.-based company, whose green- and yellow-branded tractors are staples across rural America, has seen particular success among its lawn mowers and other home products. It also expects significant growth in its international divisions. But labor challenges at John Deere and especially among its suppliers are limiting the company’s ability to meet customer demand, a company executive said in a recent call with investors.

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John Deere contends that its assembly-line workers already have some of the best wages and benefits in their respective industries. An employee typically makes about $60,000 per year, according to wage figures published by the company. The now-rejected contract offer would have increased it to nearly $72,000.

Laursen, the Iowa union official, said the strike is really about winning back benefits that workers lost long ago. The company operates under a two-tiered system with smaller pensions than workers enjoyed in the ’90s, he said.

“Fast-forward 19 years, after many concessionary contracts, here we are with a membership that’s better-informed,” Laursen said in an interview Thursday.

Toby Munley, an electrician at the Ottumwa plant, is in his 18th year with the company and worries whether he will be taken care of in retirement.

He and his colleagues have been comparing their benefits to those of previous generations and believe they are coming up short. He notes that his father-in-law received health-care benefits in retirement that he won’t, as did his grandmother, who was married to a John Deere worker.

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“We need a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

The autoworkers union is receiving some help from the Teamsters union of truck drivers, who Laursen said are helping hold the company’s picket line. Some other trucks working for a nonunionized contractor are crossing the picket line to deal with some concrete work, he said.

“A semi just tried to turn into the entrance to load up some bailers, and everybody shouted, ‘NOOOOO!’ ” Laursen said, taking a reporter’s call from the Iowa picket line. “He looked at us like, ‘What do I do?’ and then kept going.”

The walkout had little immediate impact on Deere & Co. stock, which closed Thursday just above $329 a share.

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Politics

House passes bill to fund govt. through February

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The sun sets at the the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, with the deadline to fund the government approaching. Republicans in the Senate are poised to stall a must-pass funding bill as they force a debate on rolling back the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandates for some workers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The sun sets at the the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, with the deadline to fund the government approaching. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 5:33 PM PT – Thursday, December 2, 2021

The House has passed a bill to extend government funding through Feb. 18.

The measure passed on Thursday and is now headed to the Senate where it faces a partisan battle. Some Senate Republicans have indicated they will push for a shutdown in an effort to fight Joe Biden’s OSHA vaccine mandate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters he’s hoping the bill will pass through the upper chamber by Thursday night.

In the meantime, Biden said he doesn’t believe a government shutdown will happen this weekend.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Biden suggested there wouldn’t be a federal shutdown unless somebody decides to do something erratic. This comes after lawmakers in the House agreed on a bill that would fund government agencies until Feb. 18.

While Biden seems confident a shutdown won’t happen, again, a few Republican senators have threatened to not support the measure unless they are able to vote on defunding COVID-19 vaccine mandates on businesses.

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Lawmakers in the Senate have a deadline of midnight on Friday to take action.

MORE NEWS: Australian Man Arrested For Escaping Quarantine Camp

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Murder suspect arrested in shooting of Jacqueline Avant

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FILE - Jacqueline Avant, left, and Clarence Avant appear at the 11th Annual AAFCA Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 22, 2020. Jacqueline Avant was fatally shot early Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Mark Von Holden Invision/AP, File)

FILE – Jacqueline Avant, left, and Clarence Avant appear at the 11th Annual AAFCA Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 22, 2020. Jacqueline Avant was fatally shot early Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Mark Von Holden Invision/AP, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:20 PM PT – Thursday, December 2, 2021

Police arrested 29-year-old Aariel Maynor during a burglary call for the murder of Jacqueline Avant.

Law enforcement announced the arrest on Thursday, after the wife of music executive Clarence Avant was shot and killed in their Beverly Hills home Wednesday. Police said Maynor was arrested after he accidentally shot himself in the foot during another burglary in the Hollywood Hills and surveillance footage uncovered his tracks.

Authorities believe the shooter acted alone, but are still investigating potential accomplices.

“The motives in this case are still unknown and we’re investigating all possible motives. And we will not speculate on anything that’s out there, if this was a robbery attempt or not,” said Chief Mark Stainbrook of the Beverly Hill Police Department.

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Authorities confirmed Clarence and a security guard were home at the time of the shooting, but remained unharmed.

Meanwhile, the family and neighboring community continue to mourn over the loss of 81-year-old Jacqueline Avant as the investigation continues to unfold.

MORE NEWS: House Passes Bill To Fund Govt. Through February

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NYPD: Incident at UN not terror-related

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New York police officers gather near the UN headquarters in New York City, New York on December 2, 2021. - The United Nations headquarters in New York was cordoned off on Thursday during a police stand-off with a lone man apparently holding a gun outside the venue, officials said. "The UN headquarters is closed, there is police activity," a UN spokesman told AFP. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

New York police officers gather near the UN headquarters in New York City, New York on December 2, 2021. (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 3:06 PM PT – Thursday, December 2, 2021

A man was arrested Thursday morning, after an hours-long standoff, which prompted a lockdown at the UN complex in Manhattan. The New York Police Department (NYPD) said the incident is not terror-related.

During a press conference on Thursday, officials said the man seen pacing along the front entrance with a loaded shotgun at one point to his head, surrendered peacefully. He reportedly drove from Florida, checked in to a nearby hotel a few days prior, and wanted papers delivered to the UN headquarters.

Police confirmed the documents were some sort of medical records. The man was soon taken to a local hospital for observation.

Police said the bomb squad swept his hotel and truck, and determined there was no outstanding threat to the public. While they are not releasing the suspect’s name, they say he doesn’t have a criminal record.

In the meantime, operations are back to normal at the facility, charges are pending against the man, and an investigation is underway.

MORE NEWS: Pence: ‘I Know I Did The Right Thing’ On Day Of Jan. 6

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