Nearly 800 Joliet Caterpillar workers on strike

May 1, 2012 9:58:51 AM PDT
Hundreds of hourly workers are off the job and on the picket line at the Caterpillar hydraulics plant in Joliet.

About 800 workers are on strike. But the company says production will continue.

They stood on a roadside near the plant entrance, holding up signs and chanting, screaming at some people driving into the plant.

The contract between 800 workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union at Caterpillar recently expired. Overnight, workers decided to walk off the job after rejecting the latest contract offer. Union reps say the last offer would have frozen wages for six years and double health insurance contributions. Pensions would be switched to a 401k-type of plan. The union says it's unacceptable because Caterpillar sales are up 41 percent with reportedly $5 billion in profits last year.

"I could lose my house and car. Meanwhile, some of us in upper management here are worried about about their Mercedes. I drive a Chevy and I'm going to have to worry about paying that off? We are the ones that make the profits possible," said Lonnie Locke, Caterpillar employee.

Locke has been a machine operator on the assembly line for 16 years. Bow, he's on the picket line. He and other workers who make an average of $40,000 a year say they're striking to protect their long-term future.

"I'm up here for my wife. I got a 4-year-old and 2-year-old at home," said Ted Hobsen, union Stewart. "They are disregarding seniority. They want to work us any time, anywhere, on any shift. And we have family."

A company spokesperson released a statement saying in part, "We are going to continue to run our business as normal, meet production levels and provide uninterrupted service to our customers."

"All we do is put a piece in the machine and hit a green button. We'll see about that," said Locke.

"Most of what is contained in the union's position is no concessions. We're not here to have harm passed on to our co-workers by a company who has profits, who makes profits," said Joe Nuske, union chairman.

Caterpillar says it has been cutting jobs and cutting in other plants all over the country to keep jobs in Joliet. They say that right now, managers and retirees will continue to work in the plant to keep things going as the workers continue to strike.


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