Pulse: Caterpillar workers’ rally attracts some big names
May 13, 2012 11:20PM
Will County Executive Larry Walsh addresses the crowd during a rally for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers outside the Joliet Caterpillar plant Friday, May 11, 2012. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 15, 2012 8:07AM
Lots of politicians at the Machinists union rally outside of the Caterpillar plant Friday. They were all Democrats. No shocker there, we suppose, but it explains the somewhat partisan nature of the following political highlights from the rally.
Tammy Duckworth, the disabled Iraq veteran and candidate for U.S. House in the north suburban 8th District, received a unique welcome. The striking workers began applauding as Duckworth was helped onto the speakers’ platform and did not stop for the next two minutes or so as she was introduced with a brief biography delivered by Steve Jones, business representative for the Machinists union.
Duckworth said she’s an “upset” Caterpillar stockholder.
She had invested in Caterpillar stock with a portion of the monetary compensation received from the government after losing her legs, Duckworth said, “because a lot of the guys in my aviation unit worked for Caterpillar in Peoria.”
Duckworth faces U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh in a district far enough away that there may not have been a vote to be gained in the crowd.
Blasting the boss
State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, took some shots at Caterpillar CEO Douglas Oberhelman and his recent pay hike, which was a popular position under the circumstances.
“This guy gets a 42 percent pay hike, and he’s paid $15 million a year for desk work,” McGuire said to the crowd. “You’re not here for a 42 percent raise. Are you?”
Representing the city of Joliet on the speakers’ platform were Mayor Thomas Giarrante and Councilman Larry Hug, both of whom brought their own union credentials.
Giarrante was introduced as past president for 16 years for Joliet Firefighters Local 44. Hug, who drives a truck as a side job, was introduced as a Teamsters union member.
Business and politics
Robert Bruno, a labor studies professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was interviewed by The Herald-News last week, wondered if Gov. Pat Quinn would be at the rally.
It would have made an interesting appearance, given the short-lived political crisis created last year when Caterpillar CEO Oberhelman suggested that the company might contemplate moving its corporate headquarters out of Illinois given the unfriendly business climate of state government. Quinn and Oberhelman met shortly afterward and emerged with some reassuring comments that Caterpillar was staying in Peoria.
Quinn was not at the rally.
Bob Okon contributed to Pulse.