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Thousands of John Deere workers strike over contract

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Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Some 10,000 unionized workers at farm equipment maker Deere & Company went on strike Thursday morning after overwhelmingly rejecting a contract proposal worked out with the company by negotiators from the United Automobile Workers union.

“Our John Deere members are on strike so they can earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish a level playing field,” Chuck Browning, director of the union’s agriculture department, said in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating until our members’ goals are met.

The strike deadline was announced on Sunday after the union said its members rejected the tentative deal reached Oct. 1 with the company, which makes the John Deere tractor brand. Union negotiators called the proposal “significant economic gains” and “the highest quality health care delivery in the industry”.

But the workers, who are in about a dozen facilities mostly in Iowa and Illinois, criticized the deal for insufficient wage increases, for denying a traditional pension to new employees, and for failing to substantially improved an incentive program they deem too stingy.

“We’ve never had the stacked bridge to our advantage like today,” said Chris Laursen, a worker at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, who was president of his local until recently.

Mr Laursen cited the profitability of Deere & Company – which is set to set a record high of nearly $ 6 billion this fiscal year – as well as the relatively high prices of agricultural commodities and bottlenecks in the economy. supply chain resulting from the pandemic as sources of leverage for workers.

“The company is reaping such rewards, but we are fighting for crumbs here,” he said.

The strike comes at a time when many employers are grappling with worker shortages and workers across the country appear more willing to undertake strikes and other union action.

Last week, more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg, the grain maker, went on strike and Mondelez International, the maker of Oreos, suffered a work stoppage this summer. Workers led high-level union campaigns at Amazon and Starbucks.

Under the interim agreement, wages would have increased by 5 or 6% this year, depending on the worker’s pay level, and then by an additional 3% each in 2023 and 2025.

Traditional pension benefits would have increased but remained considerably lower for workers hired after 1997 than before, and many workers were disappointed to see them cut off for new hires, Laursen said.

Above the bargaining looms suspicion among grassroots workers of the international union resulting from a series of scandals in recent years involving corruption within the union and illegal payments by executives of the company then known as Fiat Chrysler name to union officials.

The scandals have led to more than 15 convictions, including those of two recent UAW presidents.

Credit…Gilles Sabrie for the New York Times

Chinese authorities on Wednesday announced a nationwide rush to extract and burn more coal, despite their earlier pledges to cut emissions that cause climate change.

Mines closed without authorization have been ordered to reopen. Coal mines and coal-fired power stations that were closed for repair are also to be reopened. Tax incentives are being developed for coal-fired power plants. Regulators have ordered Chinese banks to grant numerous loans to the coal sector.

“We will do everything possible to increase the production and supply of coal,” Zhao Chenxin, secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s main economic planning agency, said at a press briefing Wednesday in Beijing.

The changes are a reaction to the country’s electricity shortage, and the amount of coal that can be mined and burned soon will help decide whether Beijing can achieve in the coming months the strong economic growth that the Chinese people expect. .

Power rationing appears to have eased somewhat since late last month, when widespread blackouts and blackouts took factories by surprise. But the winter heating season officially begins on Friday in the northeast of the country and continues in north-central China next month.

China faces tough choices. It burns more coal than the rest of the world combined and is the second largest consumer of oil after the United States.

The electricity crisis has also exposed one of China’s strategic weaknesses: it is a voracious and increasingly hungry for energy. READ ARTICLE →

Credit…TJ Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Facebook told employees on Tuesday it was making some of its internal online discussion groups private, in an effort to minimize leaks.

Many Facebook employees join online discussion groups on Workplace, an internal bulletin board that employees use to communicate and collaborate with each other. In Tuesday’s announcement, the company said it was making certain groups focused on platform security and election protection, an area widely known as “integrity,” private rather than audience within the company, limiting who can see and participate in discussion threads.

The move follows the disclosure by former employee Frances Haugen of thousands of pages of internal documents to regulators, lawmakers and the media. The documents showed that Facebook was aware of some of the damage it was causing. Ms Haugen, a former member of Facebook’s civic disinformation team, filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and testified before a Senate subcommittee this month.

“As everyone is probably aware, we’ve seen an increase in the number of integrity-related leaks over the past few months,” wrote a technical director in the ad, which was reviewed by The New York Times. “These leaks are not representative of the nuances and complexities involved in our work and are often taken out of context, leading to a poor characterization of our work outside.”

Facebook was known for an open culture that encouraged debate and transparency, but it became more insular as it faced leaks on issues like toxic speech and misinformation and employee unrest. In July, the communications team closed comments on an internal forum used for company-wide announcements, writing: “OUR REQUEST: PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE”.

“Leaks make it more difficult for our teams to work together, can endanger employees working on sensitive topics outside and lead to complex topics that are poorly represented and misunderstood,” said Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook, in a statement. Mr Stone also said Facebook has been planning the changes for months.

Tuesday’s announcement said that Facebook was planning to scour some of the online discussion groups to remove people whose work is not related to safety and security. The changes will occur in “the next few months” and “with the expectation that sensitive discussions on integrity will take place in the future in closed and organized forums”.

In internal comments, which were shared with The Times, some employees supported the movement while others denounced the loss of transparency and collaboration. They called the change “counterproductive” and “disheartening,” with one person suggesting it could lead to even more leaks from disgruntled employees.

“I think every employee in the company should think and work on integrity as part of their day-to-day role, and we should work to foster a culture where it’s expectation,” wrote one Facebook employee. “Silencing those who are dedicated to integrity will both undermine active collaborative efforts and reduce the cultural expectation that integrity is everyone’s responsibility.” “

Mike isaac contributed reports.

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