MILAN, Ill. (AP) — A vehicle struck and killed a United Auto Workers member Wednesday as he was walking to a picket line to join striking workers outside a John Deere distribution plant in northwest Illinois, the union and police said.
The man was struck at about 6 a.m. CDT at an intersection near a road that leads to the John Deere Parts Distribution Center in Milan, Illinois, Police Chief Shawn Johnson said.
Johnson said the preliminary investigation indicates the man was crossing the Rock Island Parkway and was walking near the middle of an intersection when he was struck in the predawn darkness.
“We don’t believe it to be intentional, but it’s still an ongoing investigation and it did happen out near the middle of the intersection where the pedestrian was crossing the roadway,” Johnson told The Associated Press.
The UAW leadership in Detroit said in a statement that the man who died was 56 years old and had worked at the plant for 15 years. He was a member of UAW Local 79 in Milan, the statement said.
“On behalf of the UAW and all working families, we mourn the passing of our UAW brother,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “It is a somber time to lose a member who made the ultimate sacrifice in reporting to picket for a better life for his family and co-workers.”
John Deere spokeswoman Jennifer Hartmann said in a statement the company was “saddened by the tragic accident” that killed one of its employees and offered “our deepest condolences” to the man’s family and friends.
More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers went on strike this month at 14 Deere factories in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia after the UAW rejected a contract offer. It was the first major walkout at the agricultural machinery giant in more than three decades.
Union members rejected a contract offer that would have delivered 5% raises to some workers and 6% raises to others at the Illinois company known for its green tractors.