A striking John Deere worker was hit by a car and killed early Wednesday morning while walking to a picket line in Milan, Illinois, according to the man’s union.
The United Auto Workers said the 56-year-old who died was a 15-year veteran of Deere’s parts distribution plant in Milan. The union declined to release his name until family members were notified.
“Our brother was fighting for what is right and we all mourn for his family and co-workers,” Ron McInroy, a UAW regional director, said in a statement. “Through our tears, we continue to picket and honor the solidarity of our fallen brother. But we do this with heavy hearts today.”
UAW members went on strike against John Deere on Oct. 18 after rejecting a tentative contract negotiated between their union and the agricultural equipment manufacturer. The work stoppage involves 10,000 workers at 14 Deere facilities around the country, though many of the workers are clustered around the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois.
Workers have been picketing outside the factories under strike to show solidarity and discourage replacement workers from crossing the line. Picket lines are usually held near facility entrances.
The Milan Police Department did not immediately respond when asked for more information about the crash. The Quad City Times reported that the man was crossing Rock Island-Milan Parkway when he was hit by a vehicle around 6 a.m. Deere said in a statement that the company was “saddened by the tragic accident.”
Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, said the worker “lost his life while standing up for dignity and respect on the job.”
In 2019, a General Motors worker in Spring Hill, Tennessee, died after being struck by an SUV on a picket line during the union’s six-week strike against the automaker.
Workers at Deere are calling for higher pay raises and an end to the company’s “two-tier” compensation system that gives newer employees less generous benefits than legacy employees. The company has already set record profits this year, buoyed by high commodity prices and strong demand for farm and construction equipment.