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, identified as 56-year-old Richard Rich, 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.
Rich was crossing the Rock Island-Milan Parkway at Deere Drive when he was hit by the motorist, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“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.
UAW leaders said Rich was a 15-year employee of the Deere plant. He was a member of UAW Local 79 in Milan, UAW said in a statement.
“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 Rich’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.