The UAW and its minions are claiming that Caterpillar is a UAW company and it is competing successfully against foreign competition. Hence, they argue, it is the management, not the UAW, that is the trouble at GM, Ford, and Chrysler.
But Caterpillar had its crisis 20 years ago, and took on the Unions then.
Cat began spreading its manufacturing base into nonunion regions of the southern U.S., building 20 smaller, more specialized factories, with lower wage rates, to feed components into the larger assembly plants. The United Auto Workers objected to Caterpillar’s demand to break the contract pattern set by the automakers in Detroit. Caterpillar dug in. "We said, ‘Well, we might as well get it over with now,’" recalled Owens, who was chief financial officer at the time.
The confrontation triggered seven years of labor unrest during the 1990s and two strikes while salaried managers and temporary employees did the work. Owens recalls: "In the 1990s we had two choices: We could either close all of our midwestern plants and gradually move out of this country. Or we could move some of our facilities out of harm’s way and into more competitive parts of the country. We chose to try to preserve our manufacturing base in the U.S."