Feature

Caterpillar busts its union

Caterpillar is proving that record profits won’t stop a company from imposing low wages and benefits on workers.

Steven PearlsteinThe Washington Post

In our globalized world, “even unionized companies can operate as if they have no union at all,” said Steven Pearlstein. At a hydraulics plant in Joliet, Ill., Caterpillar is proving that record profits won’t stop a company from imposing low wages and benefits on workers. The plant’s union has been on strike for three months, calling for modest raises. Caterpillar hasn’t negotiated because “it doesn’t have to.” With the help of nonstriking supervisors and newly hired temps, it’s producing all the parts it needs, and “if things really got tight, the company could always import the same parts” from Caterpillar plants abroad. In resisting higher wages, Caterpillar insists it is merely bowing “to the dictates of the markets.” But a company that pays its CEO $16.5 million a year should recognize that paying above-average wages attracts above-average employees. Given its size and success, Caterpillar has a major impact on how workers are treated. It shouldn’t expect customers, investors, and governments to play along if it chooses to become a “recognized leader in the corporate race to the bottom.”

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