As labor negotiations loom for workers at the South Milwaukee Caterpillar plant, a local union is asking Milwaukee Area Technical College to stop training potential strike replacement workers.
That’s according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. From it:
United Steelworkers Local 1343 says Caterpillar has placed about 25 nonunion employees in the college’s welder training program before contract negotiations with the union, which are set to begin in April.
Should the talks break down, those employees could step in and replace striking workers.
“Please don’t allow MATC to be used as a pawn in Caterpillar’s union-busting games,” the Steelworkers said Wednesday in a letter to the college’s board of directors and President Michael Burke.
The union has asked the college to immediately stop the training and to return any training materials to Caterpillar.
“Judging from its training of these potential replacement workers, and the company’s long history of confronting unions, we already know that these negotiations will be tough,” Local 1343 said in a note to its membership.
The union has represented workers at the mining equipment factory for more than 70 years, but this will be the first contract negotiations since Caterpillar acquired the plant as part of its $7.6 billion purchase of the former Bucyrus International in 2010.
Caterpillar acknowledges putting nonunion employees into the welder training program, and it says that’s standard practice when preparing for contract talks that could break down and result in a work stoppage.
“We do this well in advance of a contract expiring. We train our own employees to do specific jobs so that we don’t have a slowdown in production,” said company spokesman Jim Baumgartner.
“This is a normal precautionary plan that we go through in any union labor situation,” he said.
Here is a previous post on fears of a Cat strike.
I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear about the labor talks that have yet to begin. I’ll keep you posted.