Company Reports Defections On Second Day Of Strike
PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Caterpillar Inc. reported mass union defections Wednesday in a nationwide strike as it advertised for new workers. The United Auto Workers said strikers remained firmly behind the union.
Some of the union members and their families worried about the toll from the 11th strike against Caterpillar in three years. Some considered crossing picket lines and others vowed not to return to their jobs until they get more respect.
″If I’m the last one out here, that’s OK. I’ll lose everything I got before I go back,″ said Jerry Anderson, a 29-year employee.
The strike began late Monday at a plant in Mapleton, Ill., after a negotiating session - the first in two years - produced no progress toward settling union grievances on an almost 3-year-old contract dispute. The union represents about 14,000 workers at the company.
By Tuesday night, the strike spread to Denver, York, Pa., and five more plants in Illinois.
Caterpillar president Jerry Flaherty said the UAW is pursuing a flawed strategy and blamed bruised egos on both sides for the dispute.
″Bill Casstevens has made this into a holy war over the American dream,″ Flaherty said, referring to the UAW’s secretary treasurer.
Flaherty said the number of union members who crossed picket lines Wednesday ″increased significantly″ over the 1,100 he said crossed on Tuesday. He declined to give a total. The UAW said the earlier figure was grossly inflated, and that few had crossed the line.
Caterpillar, the world’s leading maker of earth-moving equipment, risks losing sales if orders go unfilled.
Some employees and their relatives said they were weary of rancorous disputes between their union and employer, including a 163-day strike that collapsed in 1992.
″We’re not even out of debt from the last time,″ said Joyce Toothman, the wife of striking worker Jim Toothman. ″I’m so frustrated I could cry.″
The union said the strike is about unfair labor conditions, which would prevent Caterpillar by federal law from hiring permanent replacement workers. Caterpillar said the union is pushing for a better contract, which would mean strikers could be replaced.
The National Labor Relations Board, and ultimately the federal courts, will decide.