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CATERPILLAR SHIFTING PLANTS SOUTH, AWAY FROM UNIONS.

Byline: Christopher Wills Associated Press

Caterpillar factory workers endured a tough 10 days.

First, on Jan. 28, came the news that Caterpillar was opening a new plant way down in South Carolina. Then news of another plant in North Carolina. Then Kentucky. Then Mississippi.

Suddenly, it looked like Caterpillar's future was in Dixie and the union's future was in doubt.

Over the past five years, Caterpillar has opened, or announced plans to open, 15 new plants in the United States. Eleven of them are in the South, where unions have little strength.

``They say they don't want a company without a union, but they're running away from the union,'' said Jerry Brown, president of United Auto Workers Local 974 in Caterpillar's Peoria base of operations.

Four plants will make small parts now produced in York, Pa. Citing high production costs, Caterpillar is closing its 1,100-worker York plant. Similarly, Caterpillar closed a Canadian plant in 1991 and moved the work to North Carolina.

But does that mean Caterpillar management is making a conscious effort to move production south? And will the company end up making its bulldozers and dump trucks solely in the South and overseas, as union officials claim?

Most Southern states have ``right to work'' laws barring contracts that require people to join unions after getting a job. And the South has a long history of resisting unionization. The result is that Caterpillar can run its new plants with lower pay and less union interference.

The company also expects to add overseas factories as they push foreign sales from 50 percent of all sales now up to 75 percent in the future. But those factories will supplement U.S. operations, not replace them, he said.

Caterpillar and the UAW have not had a contract in more than five years. They have had two long strikes, dozens of brief walkouts and hundreds of complaints of labor law violations.

Most Southern states have ``right to work'' laws barring contracts that require people to join unions after getting a job. And the South has a long history of resisting unionization. The result is that Caterpillar can run its new plants with lower pay and less union interference.

``Cat is pursuing a nonunion strategy. Whatever its initial protestations might have been, I think they would prefer to be a nonunion company,'' said Harley Shaiken.

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Map: Caterpillar Inc. moves south?

Over the past five years, Peeoria, Ill.-based Caterpilar Inc. has opened or announced plans to open, 15 new plants in the United States. Eleven of them are in the South, where unions have little strength.

Associated Press
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 26, 1997
Words:438
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