Monday, May 7, 2012

Whose side are you on?

Today's WSJ reports that 500 workers at Caterpillar's Joliet, Ill. plant are on strike.  They are resisting a pay freeze, benefit reductions, and changes in work schedules.  This is a noteworthy story for two reasons:
  1. Strikes in today's economy are rare.  The willingness of the Machinists union to go out at a time of high unemployment and to test the management of a company with a strong and successful history of resisting union demands is a bit surprising.
  2. The media coverage basically portrays the union leaders as morons, as indicated by the fllowing quotes:
The most obvious question for workers striking at a Caterpillar Inc. CAT -1.27% plant here is: Are you crazy?

"Maybe [the Joliet strikers] are miscalculating," says Harry Katz, dean of the industrial and labor-relations program at Cornell University.

Mr. Bailey [a striker], on the advice of a fellow worker, recently bought stock in Caterpillar. Does that mean he thinks the company will do well in the long term? "They might," he said. "We won't."

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