Caterpillar s…


Caterpillar strike: in the US, it’s open season on unions

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” goes the old adage. It’s a dubious promise: pay no attention to yawning income gaps, say the cruise ships to the dinghies, we’re all getting paid. But the same ebbs and flows don’t apply to everyone. Median family income has been declining for the first time since the Great Depression. According to economist Emmanuel Saez, 93% of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1%. We’re told we’re three years into the post-recession era, but if you haven’t noticed, it’s not your fault.
Few places better illustrate the uneven recovery than Joliet, Illinois, where nearly 800 factory workers are locked in a bitter, three-months-and-counting strike against their employer. Caterpillar, famous maker of yellow bulldozers, has demanded its employees accept a six-year freeze on wages and pensions; the machinists’ union says its members had no choice but to walk out.
Labour-management fights are nothing new, especially not for Caterpillar, which wears its union-busting credentials as a badge of honour. When car-workers resisted company plans to impose a two-tier wage system in 1992, Caterpillar crushed two strikes before they surrendered unconditionally. When workers at a London, Ontario locomotive factory refused a 50% wage cut last year, the company locked them out and then shut down the plant. “Few companies are as willing to take on unions, and uproot entire communities, as Caterpillar,” says author Stephen Franklin, who covered the strikes for the Chicago Tribune.

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