Caterpillar, union try to hammer out deal for South Milwaukee workers

CREATED May 8, 2013

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  • Caterpillar Inc.’s products showcased at the MINExpo International trade show in Las Vegas includes the world’s largest mining shovel. Image by Caterpillar Inc.

SOUTH MILWAUKEE - It's back to the negotiating table on Wednesday for Caterpillar and hundreds of its union workers.

Negotiators are hoping to find a settlement for more than 800 workers at the company's South Milwaukee plant.

Many workers' contracts recently expired.

Talks resume Wednesday, after the union voted down a proposed six-year contract.

Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, says it's taking a big hit from a bad economy.

By an overwhelming margin, members of United Steelworkers Local 1343 rejected a proposed contract to give the company freedom to adapt to downturns to a bad economy.

In the proposed contract, wages would have been frozen, but it would have provided additional protection against permanent job losses.

The company said that this summer, it would temporarily lay off 40 percent of its workforce in South Milwaukee and other local plants.

"As people retire, they haven't been replacing them, so we kind of had an idea the business has slowed down, but we didn't think that it was to this level," said Kevin Jaskie, the local union president.

Union members were to return to work as usual, though no agreement had been reached entering Wednesday morning.