Striking Caterpillar workers plan rally Friday
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org May 8, 2012 8:50PM
Ernest Hatfield (at left) stands along Route 6 during a machinists union strike outside the Caterpillar plant Tuesday, May 1, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 11, 2012 9:07AM
JOLIET — Striking machinists at the Caterpillar Inc. plant in Joliet are planning a “Solidarity and Community Support Rally” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
Local, state and federal elected officials as well as representatives from regional unions have been invited to attend, said Steve Jones, directing business representative for District 8 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The rally will be staged in front of the plant at 2200 Route 6, but because of limited parking, attendees are being asked to park at two area lots and wait to be bused to the site. Parking is available at the Martin Whalen Building, 23157 Thomas Dillon Drive, Channahon, and at the Operating Engineers Local 150 Hall, 1050 northeast frontage road, Joliet.
A flier promoting the rally is encouraging people to “wear red to show your solidarity.”
The rally is designed to spread awareness about the strike and the issues involved in the labor action, Jones said.
“This strike is representative of what’s happening to workers all across the country,” he said. “Companies are making record profits and taking more off the backs of the workers.”
Jones said several elected officials are expected to attend the rally, but he did not want to list names in case they canceled at the last minute.
Also expected are members of the Chicago Federation of Labor, Warehouse Workers for Justice, the United Auto Workers Union, United Food and Commercial Workers Union and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
About 780 members of Local Lodge 851 of the machinists union went out on strike on May 1. Union officials say the Peoria-based company’s final contract offer would have kept wages flat, doubled health insurance costs, stripped away seniority rights and allowed supplemental workers to work with no benefits.
Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn said the last contract offer was “fair, reasonable and comprehensive.”
“We continue to be open to resuming discussions whenever the union is prepared to deal realistically with the issues before us,” Dunn said last week shortly after the strike began.
The company is staffing the plant with retired and current managers and has said it will continue producing the hydraulic components used in tractors and provide uninterrupted service to customers during the strike.
“The Joliet facility continues to work safely and effectively,” Dunn said on Tuesday.
He had no comment on the rally.