Aug 20, 2012
Caterpillar workers of IAM (International Association of Machinists) Local Lodge 851 in Joliet, Illinois, have been on strike against Caterpillar for nearly four months. Caterpillar basically forced them on strike by demanding concessions that would have taken workers back to non-union wages and conditions.
Cat wouldn’t feel any pinch even if they doubled the workers’ wages. Cat is phenomenally rich, reporting record profits last year of 4.9 billion dollars, and currently reporting more record profits. Cat’s CEO, Douglas R. Oberhelman, got a 60% raise in 2011.
But Cat pushed for more just because it believed it could get away with it.
Perhaps Cat expected workers to cave in because of the lack of jobs anywhere else. Instead, the workers voted to fight.
On Tuesday, August 15, in the sixteenth week of their strike, the workers’ struggle was suddenly undercut and sold out by regional officers of the Machinists union. The bureaucrats basically gave Caterpillar everything Cat wanted.
The strikers were furious. Local officers told reporters that they would recommend a No vote.
The vote was scheduled for Friday, August 17. But somebody read the tea leaves of the workers’ anger. On Thursday, August 16, the regional officials announced that Cat suddenly raised the $1000 signing bonus to $3100. On Friday, the officials announced that the workers voted yes – but they wouldn’t release the figures.
If a determined part of the Cat workers don’t want to stop their strike, they may decide not to stop. It would be a radical step. But in these times, radical steps are urgently needed, if workers are to defend themselves against the bosses’ radical attacks.
It may be Cat workers today, or it may be other workers tomorrow, who resolve to carry on a radical fight against a greedy boss and a lap-dog union leadership. When they do make their move, they need not stand alone.
Workers’ problems are the same all over. Workers’ anger and frustration are the same all over. Conditions are ripe for one group of workers in struggle to recruit others, and still others.
Under the combined weight of many thousands of workers, the dam currently protecting the bosses’ profits can burst, and be thoroughly washed away.