CFL News
July 24, 2012

Machinists stay strong in Caterpillar strike

Nearly 800 workers at Caterpillar outside of Joliet have been on strike since May 1 after the company's last contract offer threatened to freeze wages, increase health care costs, gut pensions and threaten job security

Thirteen weeks ago, workers at Caterpillar outside Joliet went on strike after rejecting a final offer from the company that would have slashed their wages and threatened their retirement security for nearly 800 workers at the facility. Despite a brutally hot summer, the members of the International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 851 have remained united and in solidarity with their brothers and sisters.

“The solidarity of the members has been amazing,” said Steve Jones, Directing Business Representative of the Machinists District 8. “This strike isn’t just about these workers at Caterpillar in Joliet. There’s a bigger social issue at play here about how a corporation treats its employees after 30 years of back-breaking work. What happens to our communities when these people retire with no pension or health care?”

Over the last several weeks, the Chicago area labor movement has stood in solidarity with the machinists and their families. IBEW Local 21 has been collecting monetary and food donations to help provide a small amount of support while the members rely on emergency strike fund payments to help make ends meet.

Machinists on strike at Caterpillar outside JolietChicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Bob Reiter and IAM Local 126 Business Representative Joe Pijanowski recently spent some time on the picket line with the workers showing their support.

“We want our brothers and sisters to know they’re not alone in this fight against Caterpillar’s unfair demands,” said Pijanowski. “These men and women are taking a stand for all working men and women who deserve to be treated fairly by their employers, whether here in Joliet, in the City of Chicago, or anywhere around the country.”

The members of Local 851 voted overwhelmingly on May 1 to reject a contract from Caterpillar that would freeze wages of all workers for six years, increase the use of “supplemental” workers and double health care costs while also gutting pensions and seniority rights.

“After nearly three months, it’s remarkable to see how strong these men and women are in their resolve to get a fair contract,” said Reiter. “The stand they’re taking is not only for themselves and their families but for workers everywhere who have been pushed to the limit by big corporations during the recent recession.”

Caterpillar is the world’s largest manufacturer of mining and construction equipment, diesel engines and industrial gas turbines. In 2011, the company generated $4.9 billion in earnings, with over $60 billion in revenue. In the first quarter of 2012, Caterpillar has already generated $1.5 billion in profits.

For more information about how you can show your support for the members of IAM Local Lodge 851 visit or call the District 8 office at 630-321-3880.

(Read more: New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse explains how Caterpillar is leading the industry's race to the bottom)