A John Deere worker who was taking part in the ongoing strike was killed in a traffic accident while walking to the picket line on Wednesday morning, the United Auto Workers Union said.
The tragedy took place at approximately 6 a.m. local time in Milan, Illinois, according to a statement from Milan Police Department Chief Shawn Johnson. The victim's name is being withheld pending family notification.
"Initial investigation showed the pedestrian was crossing the Rock Island Milan Parkway at the intersection with Deere Drive," Johnson said. "The pedestrian was pronounced deceased from injuries sustained in the accident."
The 56-year-old employee was a member of the UAW's Local 79 and had been an employee at the Milan John Deere Parts Distribution Plant for 15 years, according to a UAW statement.
"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 coworkers," UAW President Ray Curry said in the statement.
Ron McInroy, director of UAW Region 4, added: "Our brother was fighting for what is right and we all mourn for his family and co-workers."
"Through our tears, we continue to picket and honor the solidarity of our fallen brother," McInroy said. "But we do this with heavy hearts today."
Curry said the UAW flag will fly at half-staff Wednesday.
More than 10,000 John Deere workers have been on strike for approximately two weeks, after the union rejected a contract offer Oct. 14. The workers are seeking higher wages, better retirement benefits and more after working through the COVID-19 pandemic. It's the first strike at the agricultural machinery giant in more than three decades, and it comes amid a spate of strikes in recent weeks that's left several major companies scrambling for staff.
"We are saddened by the tragic accident and death of one of our employees who was struck by a vehicle before dawn this morning," Jennifer Hartmann, director of public relations at John Deere, told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. "All of us at John Deere express our deepest condolences to their family and friends."