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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 the agriculture equipment maker Deere & Company went on strike early Thursday after overwhelmingly rejecting a contract proposal worked out with the company by negotiators for the United Automobile Workers union.

“Our members at John Deere strike for the ability to earn a decent living, retire with dignity and establish fair work rules,” Chuck Browning, the director of the union’s agricultural department, said in a statement. “We stay committed to bargaining until our members’ goals are achieved.”

The strike deadline was announced on Sunday after the union said its members had voted down the tentative agreement reached on Oct. 1 with the company, which makes the John Deere brand of tractors. Union negotiators had characterized the proposal as providing “significant economic gains” and “the highest quality health care benefits in the industry.”

But workers, who are spread out across roughly one dozen facilities primarily in Iowa and Illinois, criticized the deal for insufficiently increasing wages, for denying a traditional pension to new employees and for failing to substantially improve an incentive program that they consider overly stingy.

“We’ve never had the deck stacked in our advantage the way it is now,” said Chris Laursen, a worker at a John Deere plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, who was president of his local there until recently.

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

“The company is reaping such rewards, but we’re fighting over 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 labor actions.

Last week more than 1,000 workers at Kellogg, the cereal maker, went on strike, and Mondelez International, the maker of Oreos, experienced a work stoppage this summer. Workers have waged high profile union campaigns at Amazon and Starbucks.

Under the tentative deal, wages would have increased 5 or 6 percent this year, depending on a worker’s pay grade, and then an additional 3 percent each in 2023 and 2025.

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

Looming over the negotiation is a suspicion among rank and file workers toward the international union resulting from a series of scandals in recent years involving corruption within the union and illegal payoffs from executives at the company then known as Fiat Chrysler to union officials.

The scandals led to more than 15 convictions, including those of two recent U.A.W. presidents.

Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday a national rush to mine and burn more coal, despite their previous pledges to curb emissions that cause climate change.

Mines that were closed without authorization have been ordered to reopen. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants that were shut for repairs are also to be reopened. Tax incentives are being drafted for coal-fired power plants. Regulators have ordered Chinese banks to provide plenty of loans to the coal sector.

“We will make every effort to increase coal production and supply,” said Zhao Chenxin, the secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, at a news briefing on Wednesday in Beijing.

The changes are a reaction to the country’s electricity shortage, and how much coal can be mined and burned soon will help decide whether Beijing can deliver in the coming months the strong economic growth that China’s people have come to expect.

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

China faces tough choices. It burns more coal than the rest of the world combined and is the No. 2 consumer of oil after the United States.

The electricity crunch has also laid bare one of China’s strategic weaknesses: It is a voracious, and increasingly hungry, energy hog. READ THE ARTICLE →

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Facebook told employees on Tuesday that 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 message board that workers use to communicate and collaborate with one another. In the announcement on Tuesday, the company said it was making some groups focused on platform safety and protecting elections, an area known broadly as “integrity,” private instead of public within the company, limiting who can view and participate in the discussion threads.

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

“As everyone is likely aware, we’ve seen an increase in the number of Integrity-related leaks in recent months,” an engineering director wrote in the announcement, which was reviewed by The New York Times. “These leaks aren’t representative of the nuances and complexities involved in our work and are often taken out of context, leading to our work being mischaracterized externally.”

Facebook had been known for an open culture that encouraged debate and transparency, but it has become more insular as it has confronted leaks about issues such as toxic speech and misinformation and grappled with employee unrest. In July, the communications team shuttered comments on an internal forum used for companywide announcements, writing, “OUR ONE REQUEST: PLEASE DON’T LEAK.”

“Leaks make it harder for our teams to work together, can put employees working on sensitive subjects at risk externally and lead to complex topics being misrepresented and misunderstood,” Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement. Mr. Stone also said Facebook had been planning the changes for months.

Tuesday’s announcement stated that Facebook plans to comb through some of the online discussion groups to remove individuals whose work isn’t related to safety and security. The changes will occur in “the coming months” and “with the expectation that sensitive Integrity discussions will happen in closed, curated forums in the future.”

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

“I think every single employee at the company should be thinking about and working on integrity as part of their day-to-day role, and we should work to foster a culture where that’s the expectation,” one Facebook employee wrote. “Siloing off the people who are dedicated to integrity will harm both active efforts to collaborate and reduce the cultural expectation that integrity is everyone’s responsibility.”

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.



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