The John Deere Strike: Organized Labor’s Turning Point?

There’s a lot of excitement, at least among those of the pro-worker persuasion, about employees rejecting poorly paid jobs and oppressive bosses via not taking up open positions or demanding change via strikes. A partial list: Volvo. Kellogg’s. Frito-Lay. Nabisco. Alabama coal miners. Health care staffers in New York and Massachusetts, along with bus drivers and telecom workers. Even though they are highly visible signs that the serfs are rebelling, these labor actions are still a strong of one offs, By contrast, the pending strike at John Deere has the potential to be a turning point, a seminal event on the order of Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers’ union.

The reason the John Deere strike could be a turning point, as we’ll explain further, is that the workers there hold an exceptionally strong set of cards, the most important being a hefty strike fund and many if not most workers also having ample savings. By contrast, Deere is plenty vulnerable.

But first we’ll take a mini detour to explain how rule by extractive MBAs has so hollowed out companies that the combination of Covid-induced supply chain stresses and uppity workers is more than their fragile operations can readily tolerate.

The press, reflecting the attitude of managers and businesses owners that there were no limits as to howm uch they could squeeze workers, has been agog with spectacle of supposedly all-powerful employers no longer holding the whip hand. This is a system that requires most people to sell their labor as a condition of survival. How could employers not have the upper hand? Powerful unions are as antique as lava lamps, and about as common.

Of course, it was their own arrogance and short-sightedness that set the groundworks for this reversal. Just-in-time operations management, using technology to micro-manage and push employees to unrealistic timetables, reducing staffing and demanding workers take up the slack for no more pay, all were key elements in over-optimizing large swathes of commercial activity and making them vulnerable to shock. We included it in Links yesterday, but this tweetstorm describes how the problem businesses face may not even be solvable by higher pay, that they’ve created a system that was already pushing lower-level employees too hard and Covid has increased the demands. The employer winds up with worker churn, forcing lots of overtime on new hires as soon as they are trained, and many quit. Do read the entire tweetstorm if you haven’t already”

In this case, the company can’t readily reconfigure the business (like creating bigger inventories) so as to create more slack for workers. It isn’t simply that the perceived profit requirements argue against it. It would require multiple coordinated operational changes. It’s unlikely that current management could execute them successfully even if they bought into their necessity. And screwing up on an exercise like that could be a death sentence for the operation. Better to keep trying to bail out a leaky boat and hope that the Covid storm will abate soon enough to stop water from sloshing in over the transom too.

On the other end of the spectrum are overbearing managers who even if they aren’t in Covid-pummeled operations, are learning that they can no longer mistreat underlings. This exchange posted on Reddit (hat tip drumlin woodchuckles) is priceless.

Now to Deere. Deere is oddly acting as if it needs to win some sort of popularity contest, when what matters is getting on a better footing with plant workers. A Deere PR salvo succeeded in getting the Washington Post to act as its mouthpiece in misrepresenting worker earnings at $60,000. They are actually typically $40,000. The biggest lie Deere told in coming up with this figure is acting as if its factory hands work 2200 hours a year. They never do due to regular and long shutdowns.

Jalopnik described how Deere plays games with mainly unattainable incentives, much like the driver who hangs a carrot in front of his horse, just out of reach:

Deere did hedge that the wage figures it released were based on “CIPP 120 percent.” CIPP stands for Continuous Improvement Pay Plan, which is a team-based incentive pay program that only sees workers gaining wages based on an entire department’s productivity when compared to quotas set by the company.

The quota is upped every six months, Furman reports, whether or not those quotas have been met. And even if you do get close — by hitting 115 percent of your CIPP quota — your money doesn’t go to you. It goes into a reserve fund. If your department doesn’t hit quota six months from now, Deere can take money out of that reserve fund. And if you’re a low-level employee, you’re not getting CIPP money at all.

(And yes, when pandemic-related supply chain issues slowed down production causing many to miss CIPP targets, Deere didn’t budge, and workers lost pay.)

Lambert set forth management’s weaknesses in 10,000 John Deere Workers Reject Contract, Strike 14 Plants. I suggest you read/reread the full post. One important bit of backstory is that Deere has a two-tier pension, with employees who joined after 1997 accruing benefits at 1/3 of the former rate; those who joined after November 1 this year were to get no pension at all. Many of the workers are children of current or recent employees and resent being shafted as Deere profits hit new highs. And of course the CEO makes ginormous pay as the workers are treated shabbily on a day to day basis, including not having taking Covid risk recognized, let alone rewarded.

Key points of leverage, from Lambert (#1 was not specific to Deere):

2) Harvesting timing. From Bloomberg:

The timing of the strike is also significant. It’s coming in the middle of the North American harvest. While that is a period of weaker production for Deere, it could disrupt the harvest if farmers experience equipment breakdowns and Deere is unable to respond speedily. A work stoppage beyond a few days may make it tougher to get hold of replacement parts if equipment breaks during the harvest, according to Brian Strasser, a manager at Sinclair Tractor in Kalona, Iowa.

(Note that John Deere viciously engineers its machines so that “owners” have no right to repair, so the farmer can’t repair the tractor themselves. Only Deere can.)

3) Manufacturing timing.

Of course, Deere can always try to hire scabs, but it sounds, again, like Boeing is far ahead of Deere in deskilling its workforce.)

4) Supply chain timing. From AP:

[Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson] said the impact of the strike could spread further if companies that supply Deere factories have to begin laying off workers. So Deere will face pressure from suppliers and from customers who need parts for their Deere equipment to settle the strike quickly. And Swenson said Deere will be worried about losing market share if farmers decide to buy from other companies this fall.

“There is going to be a lot of pressure on Deere to move closer to the union’s demands,” Swenson said.

Deere white collar workers will attempt to run the plants. Will anyone have to use a forklift?

Mind you, this sort of thing happens so often that YouTube has a big collection of forklift accident videos, including compilations. The one above isn’t the best, just one of the shortest, to demonstrate the point.

As some Twitterati pointed out, no one with an operating brain cell will want to buy a Deere product made while the regular workers are striking. So even if Deere can keep its factories kinda-sorta operating, they could see a hit to orders until buyers are sure the strike-period product has been exhausted.

The other big advantage the union has is ample resources. From TroyIA in comments:

It’s like everything John Deere has done to increase its stock price is now a liability. Squeezing it’s workers by cutting their wages and benefits so the company is no longer competitive in the labor market causing a labor shortage. (And no those poor salary workers won’t be building machines because who will do their job while they are doing the wage workers job.)

Outsourcing any job they could so now they are at the mercy of their suppliers and the accompanying supply chain disaster leading to delays and incomplete machines.

Lean manufacturing that only served to eliminate any hope of adapting to changing circumstances. Because extra space and extra time is considered waste the factories are set up to produce a certain number of machines per day.

From the tweet above the start date is November 15th because any later than that and orders will have to be canceled. For example even working 24 hours a day the factory can only produce 50 machines per day so they can’t restart in January and build 65 machines a day to catch up.

Add in the highly cyclical nature of the ag industry which is in an up cycle so John Deere needs to sell as much machinery right now all of which has led to the workers having leverage during contract negotiations for the first time in a generation.

We all collectively realize that if we are ever going to fight to improve the conditions for ourselves and future workers it’s now or never. And it was pretty clearly communicated to UAW International we are willing to strike and sacrifice to get what we deserve and if they are unable to be as committed as we are then they could go back to Detroit and we’ll negotiate ourselves.

Anyway I’ve got picket duty next week….since we haven’t striked in 35 years our strike fund is well funded. Also due to supply chain issues, labor shortages from an inability to hire enough workers and COVID-19 rules we have been working 50-60 hours per week since this spring. It was well understood on the shop floor that everyone should be stocking away their extra overtime earnings in their own individual strike funds. In the worst case scenario we can also find employment because everyone is hiring oftentimes at the same pay level as Deere. Hell I can even stock the beer cooler the local gas station for $15 an hour if needed.

If anyone is wanting to help the cause just voice your support for us by commenting on articles and sharing your opinions on social media.

The union’s ability to hang tough is an overwhelming advantage. As Lambert’s earlier report showed, more than a few days of work stoppage will hurt spare parts supplies, inconveniencing and angering customers. The longer a strike goes, the more it will damage suppliers. And Deere will be desperate to get a new deal in place before November 15.

Even though the rank and file are at risk of leadership being too craven, there’s an unusual amount of solidarity among Deere workers. The leadership has to recognize they are at risk of having a deal voted down.

Deere is already reverberating through the union world…and speaking of a tentative deal being nixed by the membership, that may be the result for the tentative movie worker agreement, widely depicted by the press as settled. From Mike Elk:

Yesterday the leadership of IATSE announced that they had reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that will avert a potential strike set to begin at midnight tonight.

However, it is unclear if the membership will vote to reject the deal and strike anyhow. Earlier this month, over 10,000 John Deere workers, members of the UAW, had already decided to strike against the advice of the UAW’s leadership and reject a proposed tentative agreement, inspiring many IATSE members to contemplate a similar course of action.

The tentative agreement announced late Sunday night contains many improvements over current measures. However, it is still controversial due to provisions that will still require workers to work 14-16 hours shifts in the film and television industry. In addition, the tentative agreement contains no concessions on health care nor retirement, while IATSE says the deal provides a significant wage increase for some of its lowest-paid members.

Even though labor and unions have the wind at their backs, unions have been under attack for so long, with only lip service from the Democratic party, that they have a very long road back to anything resembling their former clout. However, the Black Plague fundamentally restructured relationships between working men, particularly craftsmen, and landowners. While Covid is nowehre near as deadly, as we pointed out above, too-clever executives have created fragile and tightly coupled systems which make them extremely vulnerable to labor demands when other inputs are stressed.

A Wall Street Journal story on labor’s newfound assertiveness has a whistling in the dark sound to it even as it acknowledges that unions are seeing a big upsurge in popularity:

Union members made up 10.8% of the U.S. workforce last year, a higher proportion than in 2019, but down from a peak of 20.1% in 1983, the earliest year for which the Labor Department has comparable data.

Labor leaders said now is a time to build their ranks due to worker shortages, the pandemic struggles and because a pro-labor president is in the White House. Rob Hill, vice president and organizing director of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents janitors and airport workers, said he expects the roughly 175,000-member union this year to sign up double the number of new members than it did in 2020, which was around 4,000. Concerns over compensation, healthcare coverage and paid time off are drawing more workers’ interest in the union, he said.

The Teamsters union said it is fielding an unprecedented volume of requests to form unions at workplaces around the country…

Jonas Loeb, communications director for the 150,000-member International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said that union is actively recruiting live-events workers across the country…

Unions have argued that their membership ranks would be boosted if current labor laws were revised to more severely punish employers who unlawfully thwart organizing efforts…

Some union officials and labor researchers said there is an emotional component wrapped up in current union actions. Frustration remains among some workers over being required to work long hours through the pandemic, they said, and a sense of injustice as some companies reap big profits from a rebounding economy.

Needless to say, even though these fights are important due to their number and their departure from decades of decline, they may still not achieve lasting change. Struggles to advance the rights of workers have required sustained effort in order to achieve lasting gains. So strikes like the ones at Deere are at best skirmishes at the start of a long campaign.

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  1. Questa Nota

    That IATSE quick settlement followed the 98%+ strike vote by members. At that level, even the most obtuse owner would want to avoid further damage. An Achilles heel of the extractive, PE management style is that it relies on a human supply chain, thus subject to disruptions. Those pesky humans eventually talk to one another and realize that they are all mad as hell and don’t need to take it anymore.

    Is it a matter of time before Deere investors, board members and management get called out by some semblance of media, in the business press or other?

    Or interview and actually publicize some real-live worker bees to whom the average human being can relate, to see how their lives are impacted by Deere policies?

    1. Alex Cox

      IATSE’s negotiators agreed to a 14 hour work day. The union members wanted a maximum 12 hour day. We shall see how they respond.

      1. Pat

        They also wanted real health and particularly pension support, end of special streaming deals neither of which happened.

        I haven’t heard anything about the penalties attached to turnaround, but there may be some problems there. Invasion of the even smaller turnaround happened regularly because the penalties were small enough that most producers just planned on it and budgeted it in.

        1. montanamaven

          From the Instagram site ia@stories, the rank and file are “mad as hell”. They wanted 12 hour days. They already had a 10 hour turnaround i.e. 14 hour days. And they got a measly 3% pay increase when inflation is above 4%? And they want to be able to sit down for the 1/2 lunch and take the mask off! They don’t want a small meal penalty. It used to be something like $15. They don’t want the stinking penalty money. They don’t want overtime. They want to see their kids and spouse. They want their Saturdays back. They don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel after 14 to 16 hours on their feet with a N95 mask warping their faces. Americans fought and died for an 8 hour day in the last century. And now they have to work 14 hour days while these studios are making truckloads of money. Why did “leadership” cave? They always cave. Why?

    2. Pat

      Current chatter is that union management threw away their advantage in their eagerness to settle. There may be three major issues divided among the membership, but early response indicate not one of them was addressed in the contract in an acceptable manner.

      1. montanamaven

        Why were they “eager to settle”? To be gracious, was it that they simply did not read the room? Or are their salaries so high that they have lost touch? Where are our labor writers like William Greider and Tom Geohogan and Mike Royko? This is a pivotal time. Will it get shoved aside like Occupy?

  2. The Rev Kev

    I have no idea what they are going to do with all the machines that they reckon that they are building. Who is going to spend the big money to buy one of them? It would be like buying a Tesla that was built in the first week of production. As it is, I bet that it is a classic lemon. A 7,000 lb lemon. I should have saved the tweets but one said John Deere never made it to 8am before they had to call 911 over an injury. And another had an image of a crashed vehicle in that factory. Probably the best thing that they could do is to set it all aside and when the strike is over, have a crew go in and disassemble them for the nucleus of a spare parts inventory.

    The media won’t be able to save them this time. You think that they will be able to hype up average people about a strike at a glorified tractor factory and back management? John Deere will probably go down in the history books as one of the first corporations that was forced to deal with the fact that the production model that has been built up over the past forty years or so no longer works and that a brand new model will have to take its place. And the collateral damage – well deserved to my mind – will be the management-friendly unions that have been habitually selling out the workers. Union leadership will also have to be reformed as well. And this is not a situation where you can send in the National Guard either. Interesting times.

    1. lance ringquist

      i will believe once i see it. get rid of the worthless union leadership that pours money and time into the nafta democrats.
      union friendly president, geesh the out right propaganda.
      nafta joe biden, Gina Raimondo and rahm emmanual, you must be joking.
      on top of that they invest pension money in china, you can’t make this stuff up folks.

      1. Paul Kleinman

        The only real question is do you support the recent upsurge in labor actions against corporate indifference to demands against speed up, hiring more employees, improving compensation lost to double digit price increases annualized, or not?

  3. Tom Stone

    I hope the Deere workers hang in there, as noted they have leverage and also as noted this is a critical time for labor.
    As far as salaried staff working the floor, just NO.
    They might be able to assemble complete parts into what looks like a tractor but I sure as hell wouldn’t buy one.
    There are always quirks in any design and often errors in manuals
    “I know the manual says to torque these nuts at 32 Ft Lbs but you had better do it right at 35 Ft Lbs or they will come loose within a month and the “….” will break”
    As far as actually making ANY parts or even painting them properly, that is often skilled work, NFW.

  4. DJG, Reality Czar

    So strikes like the ones at Deere are at best skirmishes at the start of a long campaign.

    What we have to keep in mind is that both parties, being the monoparty, are anti-labor and anti-union.

    The PRO act is not going to make it through the Congress.

    I am in favor of strikes by workers. Many strikes. Yet current U.S. labor law is so anti-worker that it requires government action to undo years of grinding down the work force. Don’t hold your breath.

    1. flora

      Also keep in mind that pols are largely followers of whatever interests have or are gaining rising social/economic/public-sypathy power. (Leaving aside for the moment the huge PR efforts by finance to convince everyone this financialization of everything is the best of all possible worlds.) For the last 10 years the financial sector’s social/public-sympathy power has been dropping. If workers demand and win better working conditions, wages, and benefits enough times I think many pols will get on board with their rising economic/political power; maybe not the old war horses like Pelosi and Schumer and McConnell, but younger up-and-comers will sense the ‘shift in the wind’. My 2 cents.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      I wonder how will automation play out in this? It’s one card, along with political and ideological capture, massive corporate and political corruption, that may significantly resist a reverse tide to the one that Regan launched with our air-controllers for a champagne bottle.

      Just as one example, note how the Democrat party now treats primaries as minor tantrums made by children. They barely bothered to hide shoeing in Biden in emergency mode when gentle Senator Sanders looked even slightly threatening. And as to automation, when will Boston Dynamics introduce their dogs with built in guns, or similar mischief, onto the John Deere shop floors?

      Perhaps a seismic change in attitudes is under way, but at least for the moment, the long term odds seem well stacked in favor of the Billionaires.

  5. Samuel Conner

    Poking around the internet, I find a statistic that 2019 JD total employment was a shade under 70,000 people.

    FY2020 net income looks like it was around $2.6 Billion, or ~ $40,000 per employee.

    I hope the strikers drive a good hard bargain. Corporate profit of 100% of wages strikes me as … excessive.

  6. James Simpson

    Many on the Left actually believed Joe “Workers can go f*** themselves” Biden when he claimed to be in support of workers. From September:

    “On Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden gave a Labor Day speech that presented a fairy tale version of the role of the contemporary trade unions.

    The trade unions, Biden said, are the principal defenders of the rights of working people today. They have secured “healthcare, a pension, higher wages with a safer workplace that protects us from discrimination and harassment…the eight-hour day, a weekend, time-and-a-half overtime, safety standards, sick days, victories for us all.”

    Biden, who has spent his entire adult life cutting social programs and advancing the interests of the banks and Delaware credit card companies, gave his remarks before a White House gathering of executives from the UAW, USW, SEIU, AFT and many other leading trade unions. These officials, who have annual salaries of $200,000 to $500,000, all agree that life within a union is fantastic…

    The UAW and USW force workers to labor under conditions worse than the 19th century. Many work for 12 hours a day, or 84-hours a week, for weeks or even months on end without an unpaid day off. Constant speed-ups are demanded to make driveshafts, axles and other critical parts for corporations like Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, and John Deere, as well as the US military. Many plants are dirty, hot, and dangerous. Injuries are common, and the company sends workers to company doctors who tell them they are fit to work.”

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Fair points all, but those Trots ought to know the difference between a trade union and an industrial union. The UAW and USW are the latter. That’s why they were part of the Congress of Industrial Unions, as opposed to trade unions like the Carpenters, the Platers or the Plumbers, members of the American Federation of Labor.

      The Wobs were the original industrial union: Industrial Workers of the World–One Big Union.

    2. lance ringquist

      thank you for the truth, labor friendly my foot!
      biden also told a deplorable to learn how to code.

  7. Larry Y

    I’m glad forklifts were highlighted. Many year ago, my former employer was preparing for strike action and the one of the first mass e-mails they sent out was asking for people with forklift experience.

    While they had many, many engineers that, in theory, could do the work (and since they did quality control and repairs, it was plausible) there was a huge learning curve to get any kind of throughput. Engineers can solder, form metal, and assemble, but other skilled labor like equipment maintenance, cleaning (foreign objects/debris is a huge deal), running the parts inventory, and forklifts are not tasks salaried engineers were familiar with.

    1. Raymond Sim

      Something as seemingly trivial as stacking bales of hay is something you might not want to let your boss do if you’re not sure he knows how.

  8. Hank George

    Time to bring back the Wobblies!

    Is the Left going to sit this one out?

    If the Left could ever set aside minor ideological differences, we might have a chance to seize this opportunity.

    These is a member of the CPUSA running for the City Council in Long Beach as I recall. Running openly as a Communist. Has FOX (or the nut cases further Right) picked up on this yet? Should be a hoot listening to the screaming.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      A warning about CPUSA. As of ten years ago, they were deep into Popular Front thinking. All must unite under the banner of the Democratic Party to save us from fascism. I was all but run out of an exploratory visit to a CPUSA meeting for criticizing Saint Barack. If they’re running local candidates, maybe that has changed.

      1. Darthbobber

        By the 80s, the CPUSA had been outflanked to the left by pretty much everybody. Even the Rainbow Coalition and the post-merger DSA. During the P9 strike in Minnesota (where I met the then professor Paul Wellstone), they were the only ostensibly left group in the country backing the national UFCW leadership against the strikers.

        And in their (closed-to-the-press) convention following the abortive coup against Gorbachev, they became even worse. Whole locals and over a third of the remaining membership (including Davis and everybody else with an ounce of credibility) were expelled in order for the leadership to retain control.

        As the remnant meandered on towards an obvious dead end the next move was in the direction of the most conservative wing of DSA, purely a caucus within the Democratic party, and still hobbled by “democratic” centralism.

        Depending on where you are, they still have some decent pockets of activists.

  9. jonst

    “Serfs?”. Really? As a long time union type, I consider myself a bit above a serf. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That is how management has been treating even union members. My brother recently quit a union job at a paper mill, and the workers there are highly skilled (continuous process manufacturing is more fussy and risky than assembly line, and that requires skill too). I could go on about what he told me….

  10. upstater

    The forklift disaster video is great, but it almost certainly isn’t in the US, given the wooden shelving.

    Forklifts operated by scabs are accidents waiting to happen.

    I worked in a storeroom of a locomotive shop and had to learn forklift OJT. We had to put stock on racks, unload trailers and boxcars, deliver parts to the shop floor (raised narrow platforms between tracks). We had to use it for snow removal on loading docks and move materials on icy, snowy roads and lots, etc, etc. There were some near fatal incidents in the years I worked there.

    We can hope for Deere being a turning point, but never trust the integrity of union officials. Two tier pay and befefit structures go way back and union officials signed these contracts. Few things have done more to sabotage solidarity. And union officials have crammed down rejected contracts on obscure technical rules.

  11. Naomi

    Enough of this Neoliberal nation weakening family destroying crap. Because of their stance on Right To Repair and their labor stance, it’s time to Boycott John Deere until both those policies are reversed.

    Every person I come in contact with around the lumber yard, truck stop, tool room and at the feed store, gets a short informational talk on boycotting that company and all the products it makes. Keywords trigger their anger. I learned this technique decades ago from a grandfather website:

    “Nationwide, boycotts of corporations can negate the many millions corporations may be spending on advertising to sell just a few more percentage points of advertised goods. Every American who has been fired, downsized or is overworked or going broke because of corporate economic manipulation should boycott every product sold by their ex-employer and other companies that treat workers this way. Let the wealthiest 1% of the American population that owns 82% of all stock be their exclusive customers. Let the low wage slaves overseas that are making the products with machinery shipped out of America buy the products.
    “If we’re not good enough to make it or build it–then by god, we’re not good enough to buy it!” (Dale, a retired machinist).”

    1. lance ringquist

      right to repair was taken away by nafta billy clinton. to recover with his disastrous polices in place, we can’t.
      all of his disastrous polices must be reversed, or there is no way we can recover our civil society.
      i predict nafta billy clintons disastrous policies are so well embedded in america now, we simply cannot recover, at least under normal circumstances.

      1. marym

        Did the “right” to repair have some legal protections in place that were “taken away” or did it exist as a function of manufacturers producing products designed to last and to be repairable?

        Whatever NAFTA did or didn’t do to change that (I don’t know) it was negotiated and signed by Bush 41 and appoved in Congress by a bipartisan vote before Clinton signed it into law. It was both preceded and followed by decades of anti-labor, anti-consumer corporate and government policies. For example, see the comment from Mike below.

        1. lance ringquist

          nafta billy is a name that represents what he is. he did not create nafta, but he single handedly got it pushed down our throats, when the GOP could not.
          bush signed it, but it was not law. it had to go through congress, which they refused to do.
          nafta billy brought it to for with wild promises that all turned out to be lies.
          as far as right to repair, this has gone on for untold decades. its why auto manufacturers were always trying to get around right to repair, and others of course.
          when i was in the industry as a youth i wondered why manufacturers were required to make parts for their cars a decade or longer, i think at the time it was 14 years.
          it was pointed out to me that if they were not forced, they might not make any parts at all. because in the past, some companies did just that.
          so to evade right to repair, many companies did all sorts of contortions to get around the laws, and the laws were pretty good.
          but nafta billy pushed the digital millennium act hard, just like he did with all of his disastrous polices, regardless if it was free trade, deregulation, privatization, tax cuts for wealthy parasites, jim crow laws, and endless wars.

          right to repair pretty much dissapeard in america after nafta billy clinton signed it into law.
          corporate america got its wish that they were after since the new deal, doing away with another pesky regulation that made americas civil society up.

          1. marym

            My question was whether – before specific restrictions were implemented – there were codified legal protections for a right to repair, as in your reference to “manufacturers were required to make parts for a decade or longer.” Just curious, based on the wording that you used.

            re: “single handedly”

            It’s important to understand the role Clinton played in promoting and implementing policies and the long-term impact he’s had on the party. It’s also important to understand where any of it fits into the big picture of the influences on and direction of US policy.

            NAFTA passed the (majority-Democrat) House with 132 Republicans and 102 Democrats in favor and Senate with 34 Republicans and 27 Democrats in favor.

            DMCA passed the (Republican-majority) House by voice vote and Senate by unanimous consent.

            It seems unlikely Clinton’s lies were the only influences on Congress at the time or in all the 30 years of keeping and expanding those policies.


            1. lance ringquist

              but if they were forced into supporting right to repair such as providing parts you could buy yourself, and install yourself, its a right to repair.

              as far as single handedly, nafta billy not only signed these outright fascist laws, he pushed hard for them using the full weight of the american presidency.

              there was lots of outside pressure to sign off on all of these bills, and nafta billy did. but he did not have to, nafta was dead, nafta billy resurrected it.

              he could have vetoed some of these bills, even all of them, than taken his case to the american people when vetos are very hard to over rule.

              he did not. it took a democrat to get the republican agenda through.

              if you do not like whats going on today, you only need to look back at the 1990’s, the 1990’s tell the story. nafta billys chief economic advisor brad delong even admited that nafta billys economic beliefs were pure economic nonsense, that made things worse, or created whole new problems, and every one of those polices are still in place today.

              at least delong apologized.


            2. drumlin woodchuckles

              Republican Presidents negotiated these Free Trade agreements and treaties. But a Dem Majority House of Representatives kept voting them down.

              Clinton took it upon himself to be the great historic DLC New Democrat who pulled a “Nixon goes to China” on Free Trade agreements. He and his whole staff worked their hardest to pressure, bully, bribe, extort just enough DemParty congressfolk into joining the Republican ones to get NAFTA, MFN for China, WTO membership “for” America, etc. voted “yes” on.

              Here is a book about that process with regard to NAFTA in particular.

              As the singular evil of President Clinton becomes more recognized, and his unique responsibility for putting America on the downward path of no return becomes harder to deny, hasbara for Clinton will become less and less welcome.

              If the Democrat Party cannot be purged and burned and decontaminated of its 30 year buildup of Clintonite filth, then it should be exterminated and burned to the ground and the ground it stood on should be somehow politically bio-remediated so that a legitimate Fair Trade party can grow on that space. President Clinton was a walking talking moral superfund site. That fact will become harder to hasbarafy away over time.

              1. marym

                See paragraph 3 in my comment @5:47pm

                I don’t find the distillation of issues to criticism of the indisputable evils of Clinton and the Democrats to be the most useful approach to some topics.

                1. lance ringquist

                  know thy enemy. if the democrats want to escape the inevitable results of what happened to germany in 1933, they better acknowledge what they did and apolgise, and pledge to reverse nafta billy clintons disastrous polices.
                  once you radicalize your people, its hard to get them back. the workers in the great lakes region know who did what to them and why. they simply are not coming back, and with nafta joes horrible performance which i predicted, its going to get even easier for a real demagogue to get their votes.
                  by covering up or ignoring the truth, will simply drive more people away, into the arms of someone who tells the truth(even if they are simply using that truth to leverage themselves into power)about what nafta billy did to hard working americans.
                  ignore the truth to your own peril. i will not ignore the truth, and spread the truth far and as wide as i can, because i do not want our country and the world to fall victim to what happened in germany and central europe in the 1930’s.
                  if you do not know what the problems are, and who caused them and why. your spitting into the wind.

    2. Mike

      A strategy closely related to Right of Repair is the stealth version. In the late 70’s I bought an International Harvester 25,000lb. GVW truck. Of course, I had the right -and frequent need!- to repair. Problem was, there were many parts made unnecessarily proprietary: lug nuts, normally 1 and 5/16 inch, were 1 and 6/16th, and had a different thread pitch. Fan belts had a slightly different V profile. None of these departures from the norm had any mechanical advantage, and only one purpose: You *had* to buy these and many other parts from IH. (Leaving decisions like these to beancounters and MBAs hardly ever work in the long run). I never bought another IH truck, and many other contractors followed suit. This was one of the factors that led to the company’s downfall.
      From Wikipedia:
      “In 1979 IH named a new CEO, Archie McCardell, who was determined to improve profit margins and drastically cut costs. Unprofitable lines were terminated and factory production was curtailed. By the end of the year, profits were at their highest levels in 10 years but cash reserves were still low. Union members became increasingly irate over these measures and in the spring of 1979, IH prepared to face a strike. On November 1, IH announced McCardell had received a $1.8 million bonus. After he pressed for more concessions from the United Auto Workers, a strike was called on November 2, 1979.[7] By the time it ended, the strike had cost the company almost $600 million (over $2 billion today).
      By 1981, the company’s finances were at their lowest point ever. The company sold its Payline division of construction equipment to Dresser Industries in 1982. Further assets were sold to Tenneco, Inc., in 1984.”

      1. marym

        Thank you for this comment. The anti-consumer corporate decisions leading away from products that last and can be repaired isn’t a recent development.

      2. lance ringquist

        but at least they made the parts available and you were able to fix them on your own. its because of right to repair laws.
        today you could not do what you did back then. even if harvesters parts were special and higher priced, you still could repair your vehicle yourself, or a independent mechanic.
        nafta billly clinton did away with those rights.

  12. flora

    An aside: What if the supply chain issue – getting so much of the stuff US mfg needs from China – isn’t going to be a short term blip? Maybe it’s time to start moving more mfg back to the US. That will call for more skilled US workers. (I already hear Wall St. wailing, “think how that hurts the stOck prices!”)

    1. lance ringquist

      under protectionism,

      The railroads in this country carry their freight at a cheaper rate, they pay higher wages to their labor, they pay out a greater percentage of their earnings in the form of taxes, than the railroads of any other country in the world.

      Can you think of any corporation or industry today that would boast it pays higher taxes and pays its workers more than anywhere else in the world?

      there is no way moving back to america in droves will happen voluntarily, the free traders will kick and scream and shout all sorts of dribble, and agitate for civil war.
      only a system of nationalism, sovereighnty and protectionism can reverse this. it will be terribly painful.
      if it can be done that is. is there a example in history of a first world rich nation being reduced to a third world nation?
      nafta billy clintons policies did just that.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . the Clintonites did collapse a prominent Second World Nation, Russia, into a state of near
        howling-wilderness rubble for a while.

        And they are bitter beyond words that Putin and the Putinites have been able to oversee a partial self-rescue by Russia. That was never supposed to have been allowed to happen. No wonder they hate Putin so much.

        1. lance ringquist

          we are not far behind what was done to russia in the 1990’s. so i am betting my statement is correct.

    2. cnchal

      > . . . What if the supply chain issue – . . . – isn’t going to be a short term blip?

      I watched the Sunday morning nuuz show and panic buying was deemed laugh at able, but there was something Martha blurted out, which gets to one of the core reasons for this crunch. Pre pandemic, so called normal times, ships could get in and out of the CA harbors without delay and that now, due to chickens coming home to roost, crowded ports short on space to put containers for pickup, pick being delayed by whatever reasons, the unloading of a ship is taking three times longer than before. On top of that, the ships are sailing with spare capacity galore and the containers themselves are 70% full. That type of productivity reduction, to one third speed for unloading partially full ships, is going to be fatal for some businesses.

      Which begs a question. Martha was on a sailboat cruising among the ships at anchor and some were saying they have been there for a month. I wonder, if a boat full of Amazon, Wal-Mart or Home Depot stuff goes to the head of the line for a port berth and bypasses all the waiting that the small fry endure?

      Another interesting tidbit. On of those container ships carries enough crapola to fill three average shopping malls. With 60 plus at anchor, another couple of dozen crawling across the ocean, it looks to be about 250 malls worth of stuff floating around on a slow boat from China. And that’s just CA ports

  13. antidlc

    Decades ago, my first job out of graduate school was working for John Deere.

    Employers came to campus to interview and lots of students signed up for interviews. TBH, I had never heard of John Deere — grew up in the city, never came across their products. I couldn’t figure out why the signup sheets for Deere had so many more names than the other employers. It seemed that everyone wanted to interview with Deere. I figured there must be a reason why, so I signed up for an interview. I was offered what I considered an amazing amount of money at the time and iirc, none of my other offers were as high as the offer I got from Deere.

    I quickly figured out why so many people wanted to work there. The benefits were outstanding. We were always told that the benefits for salaried people were so great because the union had negotiated such great benefits for its members. Salaried employees benefited from the union even though we were not members.

    We got Christmas bonuses on top of our salaries. We participated in an incredible stock purchase plan.
    The company paid for my MBA in full. People rarely left because of the salary and benefits that were called “the golden handcuffs”. At the time, there really was no place you could go where the salary and benefits could be matched.

    I stayed about seven years but decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my working career in the Quad-Cities. I missed major league baseball and at the time there was maybe one community theatre. I broke free from the “golden handcuffs” and did not really keep in touch with anyone after I left.

    Sad that a company that had prided itself at one time on being a premier place to work because just another company to work for.

    1. antidlc

      edit: “Sad that a company that had prided itself at one time on being a premier place to work because just another company to work for.”

      should be:
      “Sad that a company that had prided itself at one time on being a premier place to work BECAME just another company to work for.”

  14. drumlin woodchuckles

    If covid lifetime-debilitates as many people as the Black Plague outright killed, it could end up having a Plaguish effect on interclass relations.

    Turn that frown upside down and . . . ” Look for, that sil-ver li-ning”.

  15. Tim

    Hadn’t thought of it until reading this article that workers demanding livable working conditions (i.e. not being overworked) and wage increases will decrease productivity, whereas increasing productivity which results in slack in the labor force, been the Fed’s crutch for decades on keeping inflation in check despite such accommodating asset inflating low rates.

    I just don’t see high inflation being transient. I see it transitioning from short term reasons for inflation to longer term reasons.

    All good things come to an end Mr. Fed!

  16. Left in Wisconsin

    Much as I wish Deere workers all the best, I see no Betteridge’s Law violation. We still have no proof that a labor resurgence can be led/driven by other than industrial workers, and I still see very few cases where industrial workers have the kind of leverage Deere workers have right now. And remember, there is both short-term and long-term leverage. Short-term union leverage leads to investment in alternative production locations, which can weaken long-term leverage. And I still know of no management investment formula which says investing in new plant and equipment in the U.S. is more profitable than putting that investment in Mexico or somewhere in Asia. Perhaps with China getting increasingly dicey for new investment, that will change.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Only the formal abolition of Free Trade and the formal resumption of Protection would surround America with a Big Beautiful Wall behind which it would be profitable to invest in America to make things in America to sell to Americans.

      Under Free Trade, America will end up being the Ukraine, or maybe the Belarus, of the New World.

  17. The Rev Kev

    ‘Jonah Furman

    A Deere strike captain sent me this photo, with the caption:

    “This is how Deere’s security has been transporting people in and out”

    Presumably this is because people are scared to show their face while undermining the strike. Dystopian.’

    I think Jason Voorhees has become a strike-breaker in his spare time.

  18. nothing but the truth

    big business will give two pieces of silver to big labor and fire most of them, and double costs to the consumer.

    the question is what happens to the small business, the largest employer.

    this morning at Sams at “business hour” – one person on the checkout. all the rest are supposed to self checkout. these guys are forcing consumer to do their working and claiming that as productivity and firing their staff.

    at home depot, where there used to be a dozen people helping the customers in the aisles, you’d be lucky to find _one_ during rush hour.

    big business is only interested in resource rents now. they’re not interested in hiring either. i have kids looking for work.

    say goodbye to standards of living.

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