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'This is what has to be done": From the picket line, striking Deere workers, local business, express worry, resolve

'This is what has to be done": From the picket line, striking Deere workers, local business, express worry, resolve

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A neon scrawl on the Brady Street side of No Place Special Bar & Grill promises the coldest cans in town and 25-cent pool.

That promise was kept early Friday morning, as four men bounced resin balls off felt rails and Janelle Patterson pulled the tabs on a short round of Bud Light cans. A manager with No Place Special for the past 21 years, Patterson admitted she was "a bit distracted" and "a little worried."

Thirty-one minutes before Patterson described her worries the clock struck midnight, marking the start of the second day of the UAW strike against Deere & Co. Talks between UAW and Deere negotiators stalled just before Thursday's midnight deadline.

UAW men and women spent all day Thursday walking picket lines at Deere facilities in Davenport, East Moline and Milan. It was the first major strike by Deere workers since 1986 — that one lasted 163 days.

No Place Special is roughly a mile down East 90th Street from the Davenport Works plant where Deere construction and forestry equipment are produced.

"This is a UAW bar. And a Local 281 bar. And most of all it's a bar for all employees of John Deere's Davenport Works," Patterson said. As she spoke, Patterson stepped to one side and pointed to a long row of union insignia hanging behind the bar.

"We literally serve thousands of Deere employees in here. We are known for the coldest cans, but we also have great tenderloins and fresh-cut fries," Patterson continued. "Every day Deere workers are in here for lunch. It's a big part of our business.

"And I'm just thinking of them out on that picket line all night. It just seems like the whole world is struggling right now."

Day 1 draws to a close

At 11 p.m. Thursday a bright waxing moon cast a glow in the sky over the almost-raucous strikers at the picket line near the entrance to Davenport Works. They waved their blue-and-white strike signs at every passing vehicle, cheering for the drivers who honked and cat-calling those who remained silent.

"This shift started at 10 p.m. and ends at 2 p.m.," said a friendly man who has a goatee on his face, a baseball cap on his head and UAW hoodie to ward off the night's chill.

The men who stood with the man in the baseball cap settled in and talked about the challenges they face as the prospect of a strike became a reality.

"I went to the credit union and they told me to not worry about the car payment until January," a bald man in Harley-Davidson windbreaker said. "That was relief, I'll tell you."

Down the line, a yellow heavy-duty radio blared 97X. A few of the strikers sat in lawn chairs. There was a stack of packaged water in plastic bottles, a 12-pack of Pepsi and a covered tray of cookies on the ground near the man in the baseball cap.

"My wife is frazzled with this strike," the bald man said. "I told her, 'I'm sorry, but this is my first strike.' But we got some insurance questions answered yesterday, and that helped her."

The man in the baseball cap nodded.

"I have to admit it, I took Wednesday off," the bald man said. "I called in sick. I just couldn't be there."

The man in the baseball cap nodded.

"Listen, the mood in that place was heavy — I don't blame you one bit," he said. "This is hard. I'd rather work. I like my job. But this is what has to be done."

It was the bald man's turn to nod.

"It's true. A few friends of mine told me I'm lucky. I said: 'Hell, I really love what I do. I want to be at work.' This isn't fun, and I'm afraid there are going to be sacrifices. I don't think people realize what this means to us."

The bald man and the man in the baseball cap checked their watches. It was 11:45 p.m. The bald man asked if the man in the baseball cap thought No Place Special would be open when their picket-line duty ended at 2 a.m. Friday.

"I wouldn't mind having one beer," the bald man said. "Just to relax, you know."

What if the strikes goes on?

Back at the place with the coldest cans in town, Patterson said Deere employees made the job "special."

"I have generations of iron workers in my family," Patterson said. "The people who come in here from Deere always reminded me of them — hard-working Americans. They don't stand out in a crowd and they don't want to. They just work hard and raise families."

Patterson paused to make a mixed drink. When she returned she explained more of her worry.

"I'm really worried about the holidays — what will happen if this strike goes on and families need help because of the strike? Plenty of Deere employees are living paycheck to paycheck," she said. "I fear people will have to dig into savings. I'm afraid of what people will have to give up."

Patterson shook her head.

"The people out on that line tonight? They're some of the hardest-working people I've ever met. The people out on those lines, all the lines, they are the solid people. I don't know the answers, but I just hope it can be worked out."

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