Illinois Machinists Reject Caterpillar Concessions

In an act of solidarity that secures their place in union history books, members of Local 851 in Joliet, IL, voted overwhelmingly this week to reject a concession-packed contract from heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar, Inc.

Nearly 800 members walked off the job on May 1 after rejecting an initial offer that froze wages, doubled health care premiums and eliminated key pension and seniority rights. The latest offer contained few changes and was rejected by members 504-116.

“Both offers from Caterpillar included deep cuts to members’ pay and benefits in addition to unprecedented language that would allow the company to ‘modify’ wages according to their own assessment of market conditions,” said District 8 Business Representative Steve Jones. “There is no good reason for a company that made $4.9 billion in profits last year and $1.5 billion in the first quarter of this year to try and shake down their own employees like this.”  

One reason may be to pay for increased compensation for Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, whose pay jumped by 60 percent in 2011, to nearly $17 million.

“The practice of raising executive compensation to obscene levels while making it harder for working families to pay for basic medical expenses is impossible to justify at a company as successful as Caterpillar,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, who spoke at a recent rally for striking members of Local 851.