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Vol. 76/No. 32      August 27, 2012

Caterpillar strikers say,
‘We have to take a stand’
(front page)
JOLIET, Ill.—On Aug. 1, members of Machinists Local 851 began the fourth month of their strike against Caterpillar here. After overwhelmingly rejecting a union-gutting contract proposal, the workers, who build hydraulic systems for Caterpillar machinery, walked off the job May 1.

Caterpillar bosses are demanding a six-year contract that would freeze wages, double the cost of health insurance, eliminate pensions and give the company the ability to move workers to any shift at their discretion without regard to seniority.

In recent weeks a number of articles on the strike have appeared in the big-business media as the propertied rulers watch the unfolding labor battle with keen interest.

“At Caterpillar, Pressing Labor While Business Booms,” was the headline of a July 22 New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse. Similar articles appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, published in the United Kingdom.

“Caterpillar is trying to pioneer new territory, seeking steep concessions from its workers even when business is booming,” Greenhouse wrote. “The showdown, which has no end in sight, is being closely watched by corporations and unions across the country because it involves two often uncompromising antagonists—Caterpillar and the International Association of Machinists—that have figured in many high-stakes labor battles.”

“‘Greed,’ might be the moralist response,” Michael Paarlberg wrote in the Guardian, asking what drives Caterpillar’s assault on its workers, “‘capital accumulation’ the Marxist one.”

Owners of other companies have been taking similar measures, driving amid increasingly cutthroat competition for profits worldwide.

What these articles downplay, or omit entirely, is the resistance and solidarity the workers are receiving.

“What is being stated about us is unfair. We only want to keep what we’ve got and Caterpillar is trying to take everything away,” striker Bruce Boaz told the Militant. He has worked as an assembler at the plant for 39 years. “Everyone is looking at this across the U.S. It will affect all the unions in the country. If Caterpillar can do this it will set a precedent.”

On Aug. 7, a delegation from the Service Employees International Union Health Care Illinois and Indiana, representing some 91,000 health care and child care providers, visited the picket line and contributed a check for $25,000.

The strikers continue to receive donations to their food pantry organized by the Teamsters, United Auto Workers locals and others. Delegations and individuals from union locals and working people from the area regularly visit the picket line.

The widespread support for the strike and disdain for Caterpillar’s assault as it rakes in massive profits resulted in some unusual contributions. On Aug. 10 Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn visited the picket line and donated $10,000 from his campaign fund.

“People are tired of this,” Marion Modesitt, a picket captain, told the Militant. “We have to take a stand.”

Send letters of solidarity and contributions to IAM Local Lodge 851, 23157 S. Thomas Dillon Dr., Ste. B, Channahon, IL 60410.
Related articles:
Tens of thousands of autoworkers strike Hyundai in South Korea
W. Virginia Steelworkers strike against concessions
Labor rally in Philadelphia protests attacks on workers
On the Picket Line
Marx: ‘Trade Unions: Their Past, Present, and Future’
Why bosses ‘go after workers so hard’  
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