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Former Gov. Tom Vilsack encourages striking UAW members

The former Iowa governor told union workers on the picket line in Ankeny he wanted to support them like they supported him in his campaign.

ANKENY, Iowa — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack spoke to dozens of striking John Deere workers in Ankeny Wednesday.

"It's important and necessary for this issue to get resolved in a way that's fair and equitable to all of you, because you deserve a fair price and a fair deal," Vilsack told the strikers.

Justin Limke, the vice president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 450 chapter, was grateful for Vilsack's visit.

"We've had a huge outpouring of support from the community alone and then having the Secretary of Agriculture of the entire country come out here, it's amazing," Limke said. "It gives you some gas to keep fighting."

On a personal note, Vilsack thanked the union members for their longtime support. Referring back to his gubernatorial campaign, he remembered workers who helped get him into office, even when he was struggling in the polls. 

RELATED: Court order skims down number of union picketers allowed at John Deere Davenport Works

"These people were very supportive of me when I ran for governor, and that's something you don't forget, especially when you're behind and not many people had much faith, confidence in you," Vilsack said. "You remember the people that did. And so when they need somebody to give them a pat on the back, I want to be there for them."

Vilsack isn't the only national figure to take note of the UAW strike. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released the following statement in support of the strikers:

"At a time when profits at John Deere are skyrocketing, and when the CEO's salary has exploded by 160 percent since the start of the pandemic, the workers there are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. I applaud the UAW members on strike for their courage and determination, and join them in demanding that the company offer them a contract which is fair."

That call for fairness resonated with workers who hope to see that recognized in a future contract.

"We're here for the farmers as well," said Keith Chada, a member of UAW Local 450. "We're not trying to tap our pockets. We just want equal pay for equal work."

Vilsack told the workers today that he's open to meeting with the CEO of John Deere to help find an equitable solution for the workers. He also recognized the importance of Deere parts and equipment to U.S. agriculture as a whole.

RELATED: What's happening with the John Deere negotiations? Workers go on strike