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Union Members Confused by End of Strike Against Caterpillar With PM-Caterpillar-UAW

April 15, 1992

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ For some members of the United Auto Workers, ending a five-month strike against Caterpillar Inc. today resulted in confusion and uncertainty - not relief or elation.

The reason: disagreement over when the workers would return to the plants.

Union officials told the 12,600 strikers to report for work today, but the company said it wouldn’t let them back before next week - and that it might not need to rehire them all.

At Aurora, 2,100 returning strikers today found their electronic security cards failed to open building doors. As guards sent them away, workers each were handed a letter telling them not to return until notified.

″The company said their doors were always open for us to go to work - and look what we found today,″ said Hank Torres, an assembly worker for 25 years at the Aurora plant.

″Before the wounds even heal, they’ll stab you again,″ said George King, Aurora assembly worker and machinist for 19 years.

Earlier, Pat Diaz, a factory worker for almost 20 years, said: ″People here are totally confused.″

After Tuesday’s announcement of an agreement, several hundred union members converged on the union hall in Peoria. They milled about the parking lot and huddled around radios. Picket lines were almost deserted.

UAW member Pat Hern hauled in a U.S. flag that had flown over a striker hut at a gate outside an East Peoria plant.

″It’s tough to stay out five months and really not know what you’ve got going back in,″ Hern said. Still, Hern, who had survived on $100 weekly strike pay, said he was glad to be going back to his job as a machine operator.

″My family has suffered enough,″ he said. He lost more than $15,500 in wages.

But striker Marty Stenger, a lathe operator with 17 years of experience, wasn’t sure the end had arrived. ″Are we going to have to do this again three months from now? I don’t know what we’re going to get,″ he said.

The workers weren’t the only people in Illinois affected by the strike, and word of its settlement thrilled local businesses.

″I hope to save my business. I’ve lost a lot, lost thousands,″ said Tony Haddad, whose restaurant is across from the East Peoria factory. ″This is great news for everyone, not just me.″

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