IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger is calling on President Obama to join the picket line outside the Caterpillar facility in Joliet, IL, where IAM members of Local 851 have been on strike since May 1, 2012.
“As a candidate in 2008, President Obama declared he would put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walk a picket line if American workers were denied their right to bargain collectively,” said Buffenbarger. “The workers at Caterpillar are not only being denied their collective bargaining rights, they are being targeted for extermination by a highly successful global corporation. It would be hard to find a better opportunity for this President to honor his promise to support American workers in trouble.”
The strike at Caterpillar is fast becoming a defining battle over collective bargaining rights in the United States, with the heavy equipment maker demanding a six-year wage freeze and steep cuts in health care and pension benefits, despite record-breaking sales and profits.
Caterpillar racked up profits of $4.9 billion in 2011 and $1.586 billion in the first quarter of this year. Executive compensation at Caterpillar has also become an issue, with skyrocketing pay for Caterpillar executives that includes an $11 million bonus for Caterpillar CEO Douglas Oberhelman.
“The dispute at Caterpillar is part of an effort by hostile corporations and their right-wing political allies to eliminate labor unions, gut their contracts and put an end to the American Dream for millions of American workers and their communities,” said Buffenbarger. “The battle lines are clearly drawn and it’s time for the President of the United States to answer the age-old question: Which side are you on?”