On the face of it, Caterpillar Industries is an American success story. It is a thriving manufacturing company from the heartland which is triumphing with international expansion. They reported record earnings of $4.9 billion last year. Their Q4 2011 profit jumped by 58% alone. Last week they raised profit projections again.
The industrial equipment leader has been at war with their union workers in order to keep profits sky high. They awarded their chief executive officer a raise of $6.5 million since our last report in March. A $4.9 million cash payment Doug Oberhelman received was “an 81 per cent increase from his 2010 cash award,” according to Pat Garofalo in ThinkProgress. In total his compensation is now $16.9 million annually.
Caterpillar has engaged in tough union-busting battles, in one case closing a plant rather after workers would not accept hourly wage cuts from $35 to $18 per hour. Now the company wants to impose “a six-year wage freeze for most of the 780 production workers” at an Illinois plant where they have been engaged in a fierce strike, according to a New York Times report referenced by Garofalo. “Several labor experts told the Times that Caterpillar is a pioneer in tough labor negotiations meant to drive down workers’ wages.”
“The practice of raising executive compensation to obscene levels while making it harder for working families to pay for basic medical expenses is impossible to justify at a company as successful as Caterpillar,” International Association of Machinists President Tom Buffenbarger told ThinkProgress.