Caterpillar strikers get a boost
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain Sun-Times Media August 7, 2012 8:30PM
Sam Madia, an employee at the Rockdale Caterpillar plant, was on the picket line this morning when the state's largest labor union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, presented a $25,000 check as a show of support for striking workers. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 9, 2012 6:17AM
While contract talks with Caterpillar Inc. remain stalled, more donations are rolling in for union machinists who have been on strike at the Joliet plant since May 1.
One day after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited the picket line on Monday, members of the SEIU Health Care Illinois and Indiana presented Local Lodge 851 Machinists Union officials with a check for $25,000. The donation by SEIU, which represents 91,000 health care and child care providers, boosts the strike fund to more than $90,000, machinists union President Timothy O’Brien said.
“Our core membership is still holding strong,” O’Brien said. “And things like this (donation) really help.”
The Joliet plant drew national media attention recently when Caterpillar announced record corporate profits at the same time it’s playing hardball with the union. While Peoria-based Caterpillar maintains it is willing to negotiate, officials have said they will do so only when the union becomes “realistic” and that its last proposal was the company’s “last, best and final offer.”
About 800 machinists went on strike after their seven-year contract expired on April 30. Since then, union members have overwhelmingly rejected two contract offers that included no guaranteed raises and increases health care contributions as well as the elimination of a defined benefit pension program going forward.
During the strike, workers receive $150 a week from the union and are not elegible for unemployment benefits from the state. Food and monetary donations are going to a food pantry located in the union’s Channahon headquarters.
About 89 workers have crossed the picket line so far.