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UAW Local 974 overwhelmingly authorizes strike as Caterpillar contract negotiations continue

Charlie Neibergall/AP
FILE - This Jan. 26, 2010 file photo shows Caterpillar equipment available at the Ziegler CAT dealer, in Altoona, Iowa. Caterpillar on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 said it is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets that it serves. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Members of the union representing Caterpillar employees at facilities in Illinois and Pennsylvania overwhelmingly authorized a strike on Friday as negotiations on a new contract continue.

UAW Local 974 second vice president Tony Newton said 98% of membership voted in favor of strike authorization.

Local 974 represents employees in East Peoria, Morton, Mapleton, and Mossville. Locals in Decatur, Pontiac, and York, Penn. are also negotiating with the company.

A strike authorization vote doesn't mean a union is immediately going on strike. Rather, it gives the union the authority to call a strike if contract negotiations falter.

The union's current six-year contract with Caterpillar ends in March. Wages, benefits, and 401Ks are some of the biggest issues in the negotiations, according to a UAW Local 974 newsletter circulated to members in December.

A Caterpillar spokesperson referred a WCBU reporter to a web page with a timeline of negotiations. Main table negotiations began on Jan. 23, and subcommittee negotiations start on Jan. 30.

"Our intention is to bargain in good faith with the UAW. Part of bargaining in good faith is refraining from discussing Caterpillar or UAW proposals until after we have had an opportunity to discuss them directly with the UAW," the page reads. "Caterpillar may choose to provide updates on the status of proposals later in the process, but only after we have first discussed those proposals directly with the UAW."

Caterpillar acknowledged it is training support and management employees for production roles in case of a work stoppage.

Caterpillar's world headquarters is no longer in Peoria, but the heavy equipment manufacturer remains one of the region's largest employers, with about 12,000 workers. Not all of those employees are unionized under UAW Local 974.

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Corrected: January 31, 2023 at 10:51 AM CST
Workers in Caterpillar facilities in Decatur, Pontiac, and York, Penn. are organized in different UAW locals.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
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