Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cat Strike Update ... Crossing Picket Lines Grows

Some Caterpillar Workers Cross Picket Line has the updated story:

"JOLIET, Ill.—After nearly three months, a strike by Caterpillar Inc. workers here has become a war of attrition as the number of union members crossing the picket line gradually rises.

Among the 780 or so workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAM, the union said Tuesday it had confirmed that 79 had gone back to work.

Caterpillar, a global maker of construction and mining equipment, said 95 had returned. Two months ago, only about a dozen had returned to work at the plant, which makes hydraulic equipment.

The outcome matters far beyond Joliet, a city of 147,000 where casinos and medical facilities long ago replaced factories as the most reliable sources of jobs. "There are a lot of people watching this strike," said Timothy O'Brien, president of the IAM's branch in Joliet. That is partly because Caterpillar, which will release its second-quarter earnings Wednesday, is known for taking a hard line against unions and setting trends in labor relations. Few strikes have erupted in the U.S. in recent years, despite downward pressure on manufacturing wages and benefits. A victory by the IAM here might embolden other angry workers to resist.

Mr. O'Brien said in an interview that the number of workers crossing the picket line wasn't alarming.

"To have that few who have crossed shows the solidarity that we truly have," he said. In public, the strikers revile colleagues who have returned to work as backstabbers. Privately, some of their comments are more nuanced. "You've got to do what you've got to do to support your family," one striker said quietly. Another said he might return if that was the only way to avoid foreclosure....

Caterpillar has continued to make hydraulic gear at the plant by using managers and temporary workers. In recent weeks, the company has advertised for more temporary workers. "I think they're trying to get rid of us," said Joe Johnson, a 44-year-old striker who has nearly 19 years of experience at Caterpillar and earns about $26 an hour. He has been renovating his kitchen in recent weeks and plans to start seeking another employer soon. "Even for less money, if they made you feel like you were needed, I would definitely take a new job," he said.`

Yet Mr. Johnson, who occasionally plays the guitar in a local blues-rock band called Valid Proof, still had a slim hope that Caterpillar might improve its offer. "It wouldn't take much to get us back," he said.

Summing Up

At least there's some action on the part of the strikers.

The question now is how long the union leadership can continue to convince workers to stay away from their jobs.

Emotionalism is not a good thing in these situations.

I hope it ends soon.

If it does, the strike will be over.

Thanks. Bob.

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