Caterpillar workers on strike since May 1st at the Channahon plant are facing an intractable opponent in their quest for a fair labor contract. The 780 members of Lodge 851 of the International Association of Machinists are only asking for a cost of living increase for each year of the new contract.
Caterpillar, one of the most profitable heavy machinery manufacturing company in the world, froze wages in the last union contract, wants to freeze wages for six more years, increase the employees’ share of health care costs and weaken the seniority provisions in the current contract. Caterpillar has already instituted a two-tier wage system where wages for new hires are slightly above the poverty level for a family of four.
What is happening in Caterpillar’s Channahon plant is a microcosm of what has been happening to the middle class over the last 30 years. Stagnant wages, soaring health care costs, loss of pensions and other benefits, attacks on unions and the continuing outsourcing of jobs overseas are occurring at the very same time productivity per worker has soared and company profits are at record heights. Simply put, workers no longer are sharing in the benefits of their increased productivity.
A food drive to support Caterpillar workers will be held on Saturday, August 11 between 10am and 3pm in the parking lot of the Universalist Unitarian Church at 3401 W. Jefferson St. in Joliet, IL.
Food may also be dropped off for the duration of the strike Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:30pm at Teamsters Local 710, 9000 W. 187th St. Mokena, Il.
The food drive is sponsored by Friends of Cat Workers, South Suburban MoveOn Council, Universalist Unitarian Church and Teamsters Local 701.