Workers Uniting Building Power at Caterpillar

Unite, USW also protest together at Costco

Union leaders from Unite and the United Steelworkers (USW) came together in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 11-12 to participate in a Building Power training program to bolster communication and activism at Caterpillar’s unionized work sites.

Unite represents nearly 4,000 Caterpillar workers spread across more than a dozen locations, while the USW has some 1.200 members in the states of Wisconsin, Texas and Virginia.  Union leaders from Peterborough and Peterlee from the United Kingdom participated, along with shop stewards and union leaders from USW Local 1343 in South Milwaukee and USW Local 8618 in Denison, Texas.

Despite posting record profits, Caterpillar has been taking a very aggressive approach to bargaining in the United States, demanding wage freezes and seeking to cut benefits, particularly for new hires.  USW Local 1343 is preparing for negotiations in the first half of 2013 and the Building Power meeting was designed to strengthen the union’s ability to communicate with its members and organize solidarity actions as part of a contract campaign.

Union activists were able to share experiences from the United Kingdom and the United States and it appears that Caterpillar has taken a more cooperative approach to labor relations in the United Kingdom where greater protections are in place for union activity.  The Unite members and USW union leaders from Texas were able to take a tour of a portion of Caterpillar’s massive operation in South Milwaukee.

Through Workers Uniting, it was agreed to continue and expand our global efforts to build union power across the Caterpillar chain.  The Unite representatives made it clear that they will stand in solidarity with USW members at Local 1343 as they prepare for what are likely to be challenging negotiations.  “If Caterpillar continues down a path of confrontation with unions in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before they bring their anti-union agenda to the UK.  We’ll all be better off and stronger by sticking together,” said Tony Murphy, a national office for Unite with responsibility for Caterpillar work sites.

costco leaflet

Unite members Tony Murphy, Jim Foley and Graeme Mills also traveled to Madison, Wisconsin where they participated in a protest at a Costco store in support of workers at Palermo Pizza who have been on strike since May, demanding union recognition and improved safety conditions.  Costco sells Palermo’s frozen pizzas.  Despite steady rain, dozens and dozens of activists turned out to support the Palermo strikes and hear a message of global solidarity delivered by Workers Uniting.



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