Somber Moline John Deere union soldiers on under shadow of lost member

EAST MOLINE — The mood at the UAW Hall in East Moline Thursday was somber, as the membership went about their duties of manning the picket lines, passing out rain wear and hand warmers, providing snacks and camaraderie.

Members filed in, many with their morning coffee, to sign up for picket duty, and others to inquire about when their strike pay was scheduled.  A few wandered around talking to others they knew, or grabbing a snack at the table set up on the far side of the room. 

In a room adjacent to the main hall, a chaplain reportedly was conferring with about a half dozen striking John Deere employees. Voices were muted.

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Under a light drizzle, two UAW members console each other next to a makeshift memorial near where Richard Rich, 56 of Moline was struck and killed while reporting to picket duty early Wednesday morning.

Early Wednesday morning, UAW Local 79 member Richard Rich, 56, of Moline was reporting to picket duty near the Deere Parts Warehouse facility at 1600 1st Ave E in Milan. Rich was struck and killed in the early predawn hours crossing the busy four lane Rock Island Parkway, from the area across the road where pickets were allowed to park their vehicles. There are no marked crosswalks at that intersection, and one of the streetlights had been reported out.

Zack Olson, financial officer of Local 79, deferred to Brian Rothenberg with the UAW International for a statement. Prepared statements from union leadership were provided.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our brother who was reporting to the picket line. Our brother was fighting for what is right and we all mourn for his family and co-workers,” said Ron McInroy, director of UAW Region 4 in that prepared statement.

A makeshift memorial has cropped up on the right of way across the street from the picketers. Picketing was suspended after the accident, and did not resume until noon Thursday.

Striking Deere workers were huddled together in the steady drizzle Thursday, acknowledging passing motorists honking in solidarity.  

Deere workers walked out after rejecting a new six-year contract with the company on Oct. 14. The strike is in its second week. The last time Deere employees walked off the job was 1986, and lasted 163 days.

via Geneseo Republic

October 29, 2021 at 08:25PM

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