Cat strikers vote down
2nd giveback proposal
‘We’re sticking together, prepared for fight’
Strikers opposing Caterpillar concession demands picket outside Joliet, Ill., plant May 3.
BY ALYSON KENNEDY
JOLIET, Ill.—Proudly wearing red union T-shirts, more than 600 striking members of Machinists Local 851 poured out of the union hall May 30 after rejecting, in a 504-116 vote, Caterpillar bosses’ second contract proposal.
“I voted no! And I have a picture of it,” said Robert Mitchell, 26, holding up his cell phone.
“I have never seen solidarity like this, and I have been here 42 years,” said David Crater. The company offer “was bad the first time and degrading the second time.”
The 780 members of International Association of Machinists Local 851 struck the Caterpillar plant here May 1 after rejecting by a 94 percent margin a contract that included a six-year wage freeze, expanding use of “supplemental” workers to 20 percent of the workforce, doubling health care costs, and gutting seniority rights, cost of living increases and pensions.
“The company is still firm on their takeaways,” Local 851 President Tim O’Brien told the Militant. “The only change was the signing bonus changed from $5,000 to $1,000 and three $700 bonus payments in July, August and September if the whole plant meets a 1.74 production ratio, which we didn’t feel was reachable. All the main issues were not addressed. We have even tried mediation. Caterpillar has said no to everything.”
The local is setting up a food pantry with contributions that have come in, said O’Brien.
The Joliet plant is Caterpillar’s world headquarters for hydraulic parts used in the company’s construction and mining equipment.
The company says it has 700 “contingency workers” including salaried employees from other plants as well as temporary workers hired from third-party contractors, the Chicago Tribune reported.
On May 27 the Tribune ran an article titled “Pressure On the Picket Line.” It featured an interview with a union member who crossed the line and asserted that “some strikers acknowledge they are losing steam.”
This reporter found the opposite in talking to the strikers themselves.
“It’s not about the money really,” said striker Mike Kara. “It’s how they want to treat us and a lot of people prepared for this fight, I’m ready.”
“Everybody is sticking together,” said Matt Roesel, who has worked at Caterpillar for 18 years.
Send letters of solidarity and contributions to: IAM Local Lodge 851, 23157 S. Thomas Dillon Dr., Ste. B, Channahon, IL 60410.
Laura Anderson contributed to this article.
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