How The Union Is Scratching Back At Cat

In regards to "Caterpillar's Don Fites: Why he didn't blink" (People, Aug. 10), United Auto Workers Caterpillar locals are engaged in a long-term fight to create a "a thousand points of pain" for Cat management. Although uneven from plant to plant, sophisticated "in-plant strategies" are being implemented to do no more than is legally required to improve Cat productivity and quality. Outside the plants, the UAW is developing a worldwide "pressure campaign" similar to the one the steelworkers usedto win a contract at Ravenswood Aluminum. These new union tactics take awhile to develop and bear fruit, but over the long term they can put tremendous pressure on a company's ability to manage itself. And, unlike the 1980s, unions now are well-seasoned in the use of these tactics.

Before following Donald Fites's definition of labor relations in the 1990s, other companies would be wise to keep an eye on how Caterpillar does in the next two or three quarters. Cat's productivity, quality, ability to deliver crucial parts on time, and even its unit labor costs are not likely to be very admirable by yearend.

Jack Metzgar

Chicago, Ill.

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