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Sterling Employment Law

Contract dispute jeopardizes work at Caterpillar manufacturing plant

Caterpillar, the name see on the heavy equipment popping up around road construction projects all over Detroit this time of year, is facing an issue with its employees at a Midwest production facility.

Workers at the Caterpillar plant in Joliet, Illinois, are locked in a contract dispute with the company. They recently turned down a proposed six-year contract and are reportedly on the verge of striking if they cannot convince management to see their side of things. Strikes, of course, tend to be the last arrow in employees' collective quiver because they are so drastic. They make management angry and are hard for employees to sustain because they mean workers will have to go without paychecks for the duration of the work stoppage.

About 800 workers are employed by the Joliet plant, which makes hydraulic units, and although Caterpillar has maintained that it can meet its production demands even if there is a strike, there is some question as to whether that is true because demand for Caterpillar equipment in North American markets has exceeded expectations. Naturally, Caterpillar wants to strike while the iron is hot and fulfill all its orders, so it can't gamble too much in these circumstances.

In situations like this, where tensions are running high, it is helpful to have an attorney who is a skilled negotiator on your side. Such lawyers understand that there is not much room for a misstep and can often strike the right note between pushing hard to meet your goals and realizing when the other side has nothing to give. It's a delicate maneuver and takes training, experience and some degree of intuition to achieve.

Source: Reuters, "Caterpillar braces for strike amid labor dispute," April 30, 2012

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