The five-month-long strike by 16,500 Caterpillar workers represented by the United Auto Workers has taken a nasty turn. Caterpillar on Apr. 1 announced that striking employees must return to work on Apr. 6 or risk losing their jobs to permanent replacements. The construction-equipment giant told UAW members that the company was imposing the terms of its final contract proposal made in February. That offer failed to meet UAW demands and was rejected.
The hardball tactic is a bet-the-farm move for Caterpillar CEO Donald Fites. The company believes that many workers are strike-weary and will gladly return. But the UAW may have shored up union resolve recently by handing workers $2,000 apiece to supplement their $100-a-week strike pay.