Published On: Tue, May 1st, 2012

Union Workers Strike at Illinois Caterpillar Plant

While protesters hit the streets for May Day rallies around the world to rally against austerity measures and call for higher wages and more jobs, union workers began a strike early Tuesday at a Caterpillar Inc. plant in Joliet, Illinois. The plant produces hydraulic parts for construction machinery and mining trucks.

The company has said the strike, which began just after midnight, won’t stop production at the factory, reported the Wall Street Journal in an article Tuesday. A Caterpillar spokesman told the WSJ that a “contingency work force plan has been deployed.” The company had trained managers, support staff and retirees to do production work in the event of a strike.

Union members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) walked off the job early Tuesday after a contract expired at midnight. The union members are asking for  better wages and health care.

Talks between the union and Caterpillar broke down late Monday even as the Company agreed to some of the workers demands last week.

According to the article in the WSJ, union officials said the wage cuts could have been as much as $8 an hour. However, Caterpillar’s final offer presented Friday, didn’t involve any wage cuts, according to a company spokesman.

Union officials said wages could have been held flat for as long as six years, while workers paid more for their health-care costs and gave the company more flexibility on scheduling of work shifts and the use of temporary workers, reported WSJ.

The plant has about 2,000 employees in total.

Caterpillar is known for being tough on unions. The IAM’s strike follows a high-profile labor dispute that took place last year between Caterpillar and the Canadian Auto Workers at a London, Ontario plant. After CAW workers voted down a Caterpillar offer, the company closed the plant, moving the work to the US.

Shares of the company were down 55 cents at $102.22 in mid-morning trading.

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