Striking Caterpillar workers picket company’s Peoria HQ
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org June 15, 2012 10:32AM
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:23AM
PEORIA — Machinists who are on strike at Caterpillar Inc’s Joliet plant staged their second informational picket in front of the company’s Peoria headquarters on Friday.
One of the organizers, union steward Sean Gallaway, said on Thursday that he expected about 75 workers to picket, which would be about triple the turnout from the first event a couple of weeks ago.
“We’re trying to bring a little more public awareness to what is actually going on,” he said.
About 780 members of Local Lodge 851 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers went on strike May 1 after rejecting the company’s “last, best and final offer” by an overwhelming majority. Workers rejected a slightly modified contract offer again on May 30.
Union officials say the company is offering no raises, doubled insurance premiums, weakened seniority rights and the end of a defined benefits pension plan. The company says it is trying to remain competitive globally.
But Gallaway said that competitiveness seems to pertain only to union workers, not bosses who received double-digit raises this year.
“Being competitive is one thing,” he said. “But when it only applies to a certain group of people, it’s biased,” he said of the lack of raises and increased cost for health insurance.
The union just wants a fair contract and it wants to negotiate with the company, he added.
“When they (Caterpillar officials) sit down at a table and give you a ‘take it or leave it’ offer, that’s not negotiations. We have to leave it, it’s pretty simple.”
Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn has said in the past that it believes it has negotiated in good faith throughout the process.
“Despite our efforts, a significant gap remains between the parties’ positions. It is unfortunate that the union’s unworkable and impractical approach to these labor negotiations has led to this result.”
Dunn also has said the plant’s contingency workforce is doing it’s job and production is on pace or better than pre-strike levels, which is something union officials dispute. Caterpillar recently advertised in area newspapers for more temporary replacement workers.
Gallaway said machinists are “prepared to sit out as long as it takes.” So far morale among strikers is good, he added.
But it’s tougher going for younger workers who are paid at a lower tier of wages, he said.
“Some of them are hurting,” Gallaway said.
They are the ones who are beginning to seek help from a food pantry that was set up at the union’s Channahon headquarters recently, he said.
Food or monetary donations for the pantry can be sent to: Local Lodge 851, 23157 S. Thomas Dillon Drive, Ste. B, Channahon, IL 60410.