In October 2021, ten thousand John Deere workers in Iowa and across the US made international headlines through their first major strike in over thirty years. While mainstream media outlets focused on the strike’s drama, they often missed longer and more complex stories of workers within their local unions, communities, and contexts.

This website focuses on one of those stories—that of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 450 at John Deere’s Des Moines Works, located in Ankeny, Iowa. Here you will find summaries of oral history interviews with over twenty union members across several generations, as well as other historical documents drawn from the State Historical Society of Iowa’s (SHSI) Labor Collection and materials from the University of Iowa (UI) Libraries.

Taken as a whole, these materials describe union members’ ongoing struggles to improve their pay and working conditions at one of Central Iowa’s largest manufacturing employers during a period stretching back over seventy-five years. They reveal the ways in which those struggles connect to other workplaces and communities throughout the region, and to a process of internal reform aimed at ensuring solidarity, dignity, and justice across an increasingly diverse union membership.

Growing Solidarity is a project of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and the University of Iowa Labor Center. It was funded by a Community Betterment grant from Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, with additional support from the Humanities for the Public Good initiative at the UI’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.