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Grassley, Reynolds react to John Deere worker strike

When asked on Thursday what his message was for the thousands of workers across the state, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said he didn't know there was a strike.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Some Iowa politicians are speaking out as John Deere employees are on strike for the first time since 1986 after United Auto Workers (UAW) union members did not come to a contract agreement Wednesday night.

Union leaders had until midnight to come to an agreement with John Deere or extend the deadline, but failed to do so.

The decision to strike affects more than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers across 12 facilities.

"Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules," UAW's Vice President and Director of Agricultural Implement Department Chuck Browning said in a statement.

The vast majority of union members rejected a contract offer on Sunday that would have delivered at least 5% raises. That contract, however, did not offer post-retirement health care or other benefits UAW was asking for.

"John Deere is committed to a favorable outcome for our employees, our communities, and everyone involved," said Brad Morris, vice president of labor relations for Deere & Company. "We are 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 employees in the agriculture and construction industries. 

Here's how Iowa politicians are responding to the historic strike:

Gov. Kim Reynolds

"Hopefully they'll work through the process and get the employees back to work sooner rather than later," Reynolds said Thursday at the Scott County Republicans Reagan Dinner.

She did not say who's to blame surrounding the Deere contract disagreements.

"I think it's a great company that supports and appreciates its employees. And this is a process they go through," Reynolds told WQAD News 8.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley

When asked what his message was to workers Thursday, Grassley said he didn't know the strike was going on:

"Well, obviously they're exercising their right to do that, of collective bargaining. And that's a decision those workers made. And under the laws, we have to respect it. 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, but John Deere's workers don't go on strike very often. So there must be a great deal of satisfaction between management and the unions there and the workers there."

In a tweet Friday, Grassley said he hopes there can be a "swift conclusion for the good of all parties" and the state's economy.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst

"Senator Ernst is monitoring the latest on the situation," a spokesperson for the senator said in an email to Local 5.

Rep. Ashley Hinson (1st Congressional District)

A spokesperson told Local 5 the Congresswoman is monitoring the situation but did not provide a full statement.

Rep. Cindy Axne (3rd Congressional District)

"Our workers are the backbone of our economy – and they deserve the pay & benefits that provide them a middle class life and retirement. That's why I stand in solidarity with the hard-working members of @UAW as they begin their strike for a fair contract."

State Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (Ankeny)

“John Deere and its workforce are valuable members of the Ankeny community and important aspects of the Iowa economy. I am confident both parties can find a mutually beneficial labor contract to continue to provide world class products to help Iowa farmers feed and fuel the world.”

Requests for comment from Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (2nd Congressional District) and Rep. Randy Feenstra (4th Congressional District) were not immediately returned.

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