Dennis Williams started as a welder from Rock Island and rose to the helm of the United Auto Workers in Detroit, elected President in June.
"I came out of JI Case out of Rock Island, I still haven't forgotten where I came from", he said at a rally to get out the vote for area Democrats in Rock Island on Monday.
On the same day, 600 workers at four John Deere plants started "indefinite" layoffs.
Williams says the layoffs concern him, but he believes the jobs will return.
Contract negotiations between the UAW and Deere are set to begin next year.
"We'll be talking about a lot of things with Deere, including the 2 Tier system. Deere has done a better job bridging that gap then anybody. They are not there yet, but I have a lot of faith in John Deere and our relationship", he said.
The seasoned negotiator says he brings experience to the job, and says the act of a strike, is a final option in producing a contract.
"I'm not afraid of confrontation, but I prefer the other way. We're a lot different today. We're not afraid to swing the stick, we just don't think it's the way to go every time".