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CATERPILLAR GAMBLING ON UNION-BUSTING, SAYS BUSINESS MAGAZINE

 CATERPILLAR GAMBLING ON UNION-BUSTING, SAYS BUSINESS MAGAZINE
 CLEVELAND, April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Regardless of the outcome, Caterpillar Inc.'s attempt to force its 12,600 striking employees at plants in three Illinois cities to return to work is bound to have dramatic repercussions, said Industry Week (IW) magazine in its April 20 issue.
 For starters, Caterpillar's decision in early April to impose its last offer on strikers and advertise for replacement workers in an attempt to end the strike that began Nov. 4 threatens to undermine the strength of the United Auto Workers, not just in the construction equipment industry, but in other industries, such as autos, as well, the business magazine said.
 If successful, Caterpillar could kill pattern bargaining, which keeps companies in an industry from pitting union members against each other, via wage concessions.
 Caterpillar argues that pattern bargaining is an outdated concept that makes no sense in a global economy. But the strategy being used by Donald Fites, who took over a year ago last fall as CEO of the $10 billion construction-equipment giant, is an enormous gamble.
 His tack, by itself, destroyed the labor cooperation that his predecessor built out of the ashes of a bitter 205-day strike 10 years ago.
 Then -- when the UAW told its workers, nine days after the ultimatum, to return to their jobs while contract talks proceeded with a federal negotiator -- the company exacerbated the tension and damaged its own credibility.
 How? It turned away at its plants gates the same workers it had threatened to replace if they hadn't come back. And it told them to wait at home for a letter telling them when to report back. And it then warned that all the workers might not be recalled -- that somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent might lose their jobs.
 On a national level, Caterpillar's action is likely to provide the impetus labor needs for a bill languishing in the Senate that would bar the use of permanent strike replacements. "Labor has been waiting for the right time to get a veto-proof bill," said Martin F. Payson, an attorney with Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman.
 The hotly contested Democratic Presidential primaries and the Caterpillar strike will "focus the nation's attention" on the issue, Payson told IW. "You pour it all into the same pot and you have a potent stew."
 Industry Week is the industry management magazine of Penton Publishing.
 -0- 4/17/92
 /CONTACT: Chuck Day of Industry Week, 216-696-7000, or 216-521-3861, after hours/ CO: Industry Week Magazine ST: Ohio IN: SU:


CG -- CLFNS1 -- 9616 04/17/92 07:30 EDT
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Date:Apr 17, 1992
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