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Forum Post: How Caterpillar Ruined a Union Manufacturing Success Story

Posted 11 months ago on May 6, 2013, 10:40 a.m. EST by GirlFriday (21783)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

What made the biggest headlines, though, was Sullivan’s analysis of why his company had become so successful. After evaluating the world market in sophisticated ore excavation, he announced he was keeping the plant unionized and expanding operations in the United States, because his workers were more productive and efficient than lower-paid workers in other states or countries. Sullivan said he preferred the experienced United Steelworkers (USW) teams for financial reasons—and he said it so often that even militant workers conditioned to doubt management were happy to be respected so loudly, enthusiastically agreeing to be the public face for the company.

Bucyrus' success received plenty of attention. The best-known name in international mining, Peoria, Ill.-headquartered Caterpillar, announced in 2011 a protective move against the upstart. It would try to beat back Bucyrus—and another Milwaukee-based high-roller in this field, Joy Global—by creating its own line of giant mining shovels.

Then, within months, to the surprise of many financiers, Caterpillar abandoned its plan and paid a staggering $7.6 billion to acquire Bucyrus International.

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14943/caterpillars_assault_on_usw_bucyrus/

52 Comments

52 Comments


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[-] 2 points by farmer88 (40) 11 months ago

Or, you know, he could have just treated his employees well without a union. That has worked in many cases, I have personal experience with multi-billion dollar companies that aren't unionized, yet treat their employees really well.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (21783) 11 months ago

Yeah. In fact, that information has been included in past conversations on this. I encourage you to look that up. Actually, lemme back track. That information has been included but from smaller companies.

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Really??

Which one is that?

Ever worked an assembly line, and had to go to the toilet?

I'm sure this lady wished she had one, and she wasn't even on an assembly line.

http://www.alternet.org/labor/pregnant-t-mobile-employee-forced-take-vacation-time-use-bathroom-fired-over-12-cent-error

[-] 1 points by farmer88 (40) 11 months ago

I had family work on assembly lines in a non-unionized company who were treated ridiculously well to the point where after my grandfather died, his widow CONTINUED to get healthcare as well as a monthly stipend from the company until she died over 30 years later.

Ever heard of Eastman Kodak? Or Wegmans Food Markets?

Basically, my point is that unions don't inherently mean the difference between being treated poorly and being treated well.

[-] 3 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

You didn't answer either question.

A family member had the personal experience and not you?

Kodak's bankrupt and No, I never heard of Wegmans.

Either way, what you are describing is the exception, not the rule, and what they have given was done to (once upon a time) compete with union wages and benefits.

How about the firing I linked you to?

It was retaliatory, and she has no rights to file a grievance.

[-] 0 points by farmer88 (40) 11 months ago

You asked me "which one is that?" So I responded. And Kodak, for being bankrupt NOW, doesn't really matter for the point I'm making, because even when unions were huge, they were completely non-union. All throughout the company's existence, it has been non-union. A huge money making manufacturing machine in the 20th century was completely non-union.

My point is that not all companies are evil. You don't always need a union to be treated well by a company. I personally work for Wegmans (mostly a cashier) and I have been treated so well, I couldn't really ask to be treated better. And I have had immediate family as well as relatives work for Kodak. Yes, it is a shame when companies mistreat their employees. But, as I've said, a union is not necessarily REQUIRED to be treated fairly by a company. Especially in this case, where it seems like the management was treating the workers well to begin with. If you're going to be paid well, given good benefits, not treated like crap, and such, I see absolutely no reason whatsoever to establish a union unless you enjoy throwing part of your paycheck down the toilet for no good reason.

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

And what happens when the wicked, greedy step son takes over Wegmans?

You got nothing, and you will wish for union representation.

Most telling to me, is your complete lack of comment on what happened to the lady at T Mobile.

[-] -2 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

I think you are wrong. Actually i know you are wrong. Lets look at Exxon Mobil. Average wage is $96000, with a range from $41000-$273000.

Halliburton Average $77000, rnge $28000-912000.

Apple $11.98 hr - $125000/yr

The exception is the bad character Corp. most corps pay darn well w/o unions. Can you point out a specific example of a very low paying, bad character corp?

[-] 2 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

WallyWorld.

Did you say $11.98 to work for Apple?

Tell that to the folks at Foxxcon.

[-] -2 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

So one company Walmart is what you are using to illustrate what is clearly a bogus point. Please provide more.

You're funny.

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

You asked for "one" and I obliged you.

Now you want to pretend it's not enough?

I think you should retire as a WallyWorld greeter.

It would suit you.

[-] -1 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

Where is their bad character? They are a successful company, with a lot of consumer approval. They have low wages AND very low prices. If they were evil, they wouldnt be successful. Their job is to bring very low priced items to the market and give consumers choices.

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

You've officially been brain washed. Does it feel squeaky clean?

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/16212-laundering-the-public-image-of-worker-killing-sweatshops

[-] -2 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

BTW, I typed this right after having a conversation with a Walmart employee. She likes working for Walmart. In her case, she gets medical and dental and an OK wage, her words not mine. Walmart is what it is. Could it be better? sure. Could it be worse, sure. A lot of folks like Walmart.

[-] 2 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Your brain is squeaking.

Generic quotes?

Really?

I'll give you one.

I talked to a WallyWorld employee that HATED the fact that she had to collect food stamps to feed herself and her young family

She complained about how austere her co-paid health care was too, as it covered very little.

She also felt guilty, knowing that this corporation did everything it could to hide the fact that it uses "slave labor" to build most of it's products, while insisting that vendors do the same, or they won't allow them on the Wallyworld shelves.

She was practically in tears, that there was nowhere else in town to work anymore.

[-] -2 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

There is an easy solution. Dont buy Walmart. but since so many do, the vast majority of Americans dont care if 300 people in Bangladesh are burned to death, they just want low, low prices.

Is that Walmart's fault? Or is that an indictment of the American consumer? I doubt anyone cares if people die in these destitute countries and its not America's responsibilty to either police every political squabble OR police every worker protection laws in some 3rd world country.

[-] 2 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Bullshit.

This is utter bullshit.

They don't tell Americans the extent of their nefarious business dealings.

They bury them deep and threaten those who would expose them.

[-] 0 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 11 months ago

Dont even think of bringing up Kodak. They fucked over so many people its insane. Laying people off right before their retirement- I personally know one of them- or transferring them out of the company into a sub- I personally know another.

Im assuming you are from Rochester if you are bringing up those two. Wegmans does a good job. Kodak straight up fucked people. Granted they were a power house and many people loved it for a long time, its hard to take them too seriously when they ended things on the note they did.

[-] 0 points by farmer88 (40) 11 months ago

Kodak didn't actually "fuck" anyone until it went bankrupt dude. And that wasn't really entirely THEIR fault either, though one could easily argue that they could have switched over to other forms of making money than trying to stick with film in the 2000s. The company was hemorrhaging money because of all the promises they had made years ago when they were making money hand over fist. They couldn't exactly stay afloat when trying to deal with all the money they were handing out and yet were making almost nothing. There was just absolutely no way they could sustain all the benefits they were giving out while at the same time making almost nothing. If the company had just flat out gone bankrupt, there would have been an even bigger problem. Would you have had them keep all these people on the books and just gone bankrupt even faster and not only leave even MORE people out to dry, but deal an even bigger bullet to the local economy than their current problems have. At least they are employing SOMEONE.

[-] 0 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 11 months ago

I agree to a certain extent. But the shit like firing people who are in the 19+ year, or swapping them over at 19+ years, is just fucked up.

Kodak did a great job for a long time- minus turning the Genessee into its own personal toilet.

But I do miss Wegmans.

[-] -1 points by farmer88 (40) 11 months ago

But, as I said, Kodak was literally going bankrupt. They had almost no choice unless they wanted to go bankrupt even faster. The company would have been in much worse shape if they hadn't done something. I don't necessarily agree with having fired all the people they did. This isn't a case of other companies who would lay off people then all the higher ups would take a lot of money; even the higher ups with Kodak lost a ton of money.

[-] 0 points by Narley (-634) 11 months ago

I agree. My state is a right-to-work state. Always has been. Unions here are paper tigers. They can complain and protest company policies, but rarely have any influence. The company I retired from had a union, but employees weren’t required to join to keep their jobs. My company was a good place to work, fair to employees and had good health and retirement benefits. In my case if I die my wife will continue to receive my retirement income for the remainder of her life.

So, you’re right. Unions aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s on a case by case basis. Sometime the unions are as corrupt as the company.

[-] 0 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Considering the HARD anti-union push in Wisconsin, Caterpillars anti-union stance and the investment the brothers Koch have in destroying Democracy and unions, I wouldn't be surprised to find them behind this.

Is there any way to investigate their possible holdings in Caterpillar?

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (21783) 11 months ago

If I run into it, it will be purely by accident.

This guy is interesting but I have no idea if they are related http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jack-koch/2b/737/110

I can look here: http://www.muckety.com/Caterpillar-Inc/5000369.muckety

and here:

http://www.muckety.com/Koch-Industries/5002758.muckety

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

This might help with cross referencing.

http://stockzoa.com/ticker/cat/

It could be a tangled web that leads back to the Koch's

It wouldn't surprise me as this is list of some of the most hated corps, and their "foundations" in the World.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (21783) 11 months ago

When I have some time, I will have a look see.

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

It's one hell of a tangled web, but I believe that if it goes against the tenets of Democracy, the Koch's are all in.

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (21783) 11 months ago

Probably, but do they have to be in order to derive a benefit?

[-] 2 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Nope. that's why they have their private meetings with like minded psychopaths.

If it's BAD for Democracy, it's good for all those greedy assholes.

[-] -3 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

The Union should have out bid Cat and went employee owned.

[-] 3 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 11 months ago

You freemarketeers are either the most dense Americans around or your ignorance is only surpassed by your lack of patriotism. Money before nation, right?

If you really believe there was a chance in a million that the union could have out bid Caterpillar, then you have not been paying attention. But of course you don't believe it was ever possible for the union to out bid Caterpillar, you just believe workers should have no say in what a company chooses, even if said company is a major recipient of corporate socialism. You defend Caterpillar's right to maximize profits at the expense of workers and tax payers.

https://www.google.com/search?q=catapillar+tax+breaks&aq=f&oq=catapillar+tax+breaks&aqs=chrome.0.57j0.8628j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=caterpillar+tax+breaks&spell=1&sa=X&psj=1&ei=kvqHUem5MYzwrAGU1YAg&ved=0CDAQvwUoAA&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45960087,d.aWM&fp=667f693d9563fa5c&biw=1366&bih=643

Only reason Caterpillar can run rough shod over the economy is because it is given tax breaks that many capitalistic start ups would love to have. I believe your free market mantra would better be articulated if you were against Caterpillar's use of tax breaks to out compete their competition. You come off as being more of a wealth makes right advocate than a free market acolyte. You probably consider Caterpillar, The NFL for that matter, a model of American capitalism, don't you?

[-] -2 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

Caterpillar shouldnt get any tax breaks. they get breaks because they likely make a case for all the supposed good things they do for the economy, like create jobs and provide taxes.

Why couldnt the Union out bid Caterpillar? That makes no sense.

[-] 0 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

Why is the USW lobbying? Save money and BUY the companies that employ the union. thats seems crystal clear.

Your links dont explain why the unions dont buy comnpnies.

[-] 2 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 11 months ago

I knew you would not get the point, maybe that is why you are a free marketteer. Maybe apples and oranges will compel those neurons to fire.

Could it be that the USW participates in politics for the same reason Caterpillar plays the game. Those that don't play get eaten alive.

But my point is: using what they outlay for participation in politics should be an indicator of who would out bid whom. Look at the difference of the two organizations and tell me who has better leverage when bidding. Duh.

When you don't pay your taxes because you out spend your competition in the political arena, it should be no surprise that you have more money and are at a competitive advantage. Anyone defending a multi billion dollar corporation against a smaller business, does not defend Capitalism but defends this era's monopolies and trusts, which should aptly be called corporatism,the death knell of Capitalism

[-] 0 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

I guess you arent reading. Who cares? Lobbying and its waste goes away if the the Unions simply BUY Caterpillar. Why is that so tough to understand? Caterpillar and its overpaid upper level management goes away once it gets owned by the employees. All of its excess outrageous profits can go to the workers, not some overpaid CEO.

Its that easy.

[-] -1 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

CAT has 125000 employees and the entire value of the company is $55 billon. All each employee needed, with union help, was $440000 and they own every nut and bolt. But they only needed $221000 to have utter control. That isnt much and they control the whole taco.

Union bosses messed up again.

[-] 0 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

"Right to work legislation", and in Caterpillars case in particular, the legal costs of defending contracts.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

Tweeted - @alfranken "Right to Work" ( ALEC ) legislation. Leaves every worker in the same Boat. Double Speak = Right to Fire 4 No Cause.

In a further response to a good request ( tweet above ) - .@AlFranken is right: It's insane that LGBT employees can be fired b/c of who they are. Help fight discrimination: http://www.alfranken.com/index.php/splash/e1305wpd/m/

[-] 1 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

T-Mobile could use one, in spite of turning the world pink, they don't mind a little retaliatory union free firings.

http://www.alternet.org/labor/pregnant-t-mobile-employee-forced-take-vacation-time-use-bathroom-fired-over-12-cent-error

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

They only like pink for how they can exploit it.

[-] 1 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

I dont know whtat means. All I know is that if Bucyrus was a good deal, the Unions should have bought it. Union leadership failed dismally. Unions should work to control their futures by owning the companies they work for. If they take the short sighted route, letting management own them, they are failing themselves.

[-] 0 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

You don't know what what means?

It wasn't a particularly difficult sentence.

[-] 0 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

Why didnt the USW buy Bucyrus? Thats my question. Would have given them security forever.

Your comment on right to work is peripheral or even not relevant.

[-] 0 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Money, money, money and more money.

That's why.

It's also what make "right to work" supremely relevant.

How much did you say Caterpillar is worth?

How much did they cost the unions in their anti-union fighting?

[-] 0 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

I am not following your line of thought. BUY THE COMPANY. Why be at the mercy of outside managers?

Yeah it costs money but then they can do whatever they want. Thats just about priceless. Wages can rise, savings on upper management salaries alone would have paid for a big chunk.

[-] 0 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

Money is something you don't understand?

Now that's a surprise.

That you completely refuse to admit what "right to work" does do, isn't.

Cherry pick much?

[-] 0 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

I understand right to work. It can suppress wages and break unions. How that mixes with buying the company escapes me.

Apparently you cant answer that either.

[-] 0 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

If you understood money, you would understand.

[-] -2 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

Clearly you dont either, since you cant or wont answer.

IMO money is just a tool. If the unions use it effectively, they can own their futures. They can tell some right to work agitator to kiss their asses, we OWN our future.

[-] 2 points by shooz (26681) 11 months ago

I'm sorry. I can't explain money to you, and you are obviously very naive when it comes to "right to work" legislation and why it was EVER implemented.

Perhaps you are on the wrong web site?

Did you turn right, when you clicked away from theblaze?

[-] -3 points by freemarket5555 (-182) 11 months ago

Nice deflection. You are skilled in posting nonsense. Good for you.