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Joliet strikers at Cat HQ

PEORIA (MCT) -- Machinists on strike at Caterpillar Inc.'s Joliet plant brought their call for a better contract offer to company headquarters Monday.

Informational pickets were set up from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside Caterpillar offices at 100 NE Adams St. in Downtown Peoria by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers holding signs calling for "a fair deal." Seven hundred and 80 union members went on strike May 1 after rejecting the company's proposal for a new six-year pact.

Union officials said the deal offered no raises while weakening seniority rights and increased health care costs at a time when Caterpillar was making record profits.

Last week, machinists turned down a modified proposal that Caterpillar offered that included a $1,000 signing bonus for each worker if union members approved the contract before June 10.

"Twenty-seven of us were here today," said Sean Gallaway, a machinist who's worked at the Joliet plant for 16 years, referring to members who traveled to Peoria.

"Contract negotiations were never held at all. The company's proposal was presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

"The whole contract issue has nothing to do with the economic impact but union busting and corporate greed."

Caterpillar has kept production running with nonunion personnel at the Joliet facility that makes hydraulic components for tractors.

Caterpillar issued a statement Monday that indicated the company would continue to operate the Joliet facility.

"With our contingency work force, the company is producing product at Joliet at levels that support customer demand for those products and we are doing so at quality levels that exceed our expectations. In addition, a number of process and efficiency improvements that have been identified by the contingency work force have been or are being implemented at the Joliet facility.

"We have shifted our focus to long-term contingency execution because negotiations have been exhausted. We have our complete offer on the table and are now moving forward. We want our employees to make their choices based on accurate information about the facility rather than based on speculation or rumors being spread by some people who have never been inside the facility or in some cases have not been inside the factory since the strike began," noted the Caterpillar statement.

Bruce Boaz, an assembler at the Joliet plant for 39 years, repeated what other union members have said. "With all the money this company is making, all we want is a fair deal. (In previous contracts,) we gave away stuff when times were bad. Now it's time for us to reap some benefits."

Boaz said he planned to retire once a contract settlement was reached.

"After this, I'm done," he said.

©2012 Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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