There are many reasons to support the Caterpillar workers who are fighting to keep previously won benefits and a middleclass standard of living.
For one, Caterpillar is a very profitable and financially stabled company. It reported second-quarter profits of $1.7 billion, up 67 percent from a year earlier; a year in which Caterpillar earned $4.7 billion in profits. It ranks in the top tier of heavy machine manufacturing in the world. There is no financial or economic imperative for Caterpillar to freeze raises for twelve years in a row at the same time forcing workers to contribute more for health insurance and agree to seniority changes to their contract.
Secondly Caterpillar instituted a two-tier wage system in the previous six-year contract which applies to all new hires Some employees will be starting as low as $12 per hour which comes to $24,960 per annum. The poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,050. After income taxes and FICA are deducted a worker with a family of four would actually fall below the poverty threshold and could be eligible for Government assistance programs such as Food Stamps. When that happens we taxpayers are subsidizing the employees of a very profitable company.
Also, with wages frozen and with new workers replacing senior workers as they retire the Channahon plant will eventually be manned by workers whose average wage is slightly over the poverty line for a family of four, the kind of jobs which were once solid middleclass manufacturing jobs.
With consumer spending accounting for 60% to 70% of GDP the continuing assault on the middle class is not only devastating to the individual, but also to the economy on a national and local level. Every dollar earned but denied to a worker is one less dollar that gets back into the economy. It is one less dollar the worker has with which to buy a new car or flat screen TV, or to pay for his children’s education and more and more frequently one less dollar to feed his family. That dollar denied the worker does nothing to help the economy if it sits in the coffers of corporations who currently hold over two trillion dollars in cash.
This strike is not only about the workers at Caterpillar; it is also about what is happening to the middleclass in the country. They deserve our support.
A food drive to support Caterpillar workers will be held on Saturday, August 11 between 10am and 3pm in the parking lot of the Universalist Unitarian Church at 3401 W. Jefferson St. in Joliet, IL.
Food may also be dropped off for the duration of the strike Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:30pm at Teamsters Local 710, 9000 W. 187th St. Mokena, Il.
The food drive is sponsored by Friends of Cat Workers, South Suburban MoveOn Council, Universalist Unitarian Church and Teamsters Local 701.
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