Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Labor Battles Are Internationalized

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Labor Battles Are Internationalized

Article excerpt

For a year or more, Southern Illinois has been one of the nation's labor battlegrounds.

Acrimonious management-labor fights have been waged between Caterpillar and the United Auto Workers in Peoria, A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. and the Allied Industrial Workers in Decatur, and Peabody Mining Co. and the United Mine Workers throughout Southern Illinois.

Now, Illinois' battles are becoming internationalized.

In what it calls an act of solidarity across national borders, the giant International Metalworkers' Federation will hold a world conference of Caterpillar unions in Peoria in May.

The IMF is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Peter Unterweger, head of the IMF's automotive department, will run the two-day Peoria session.

"What I hope comes out of this meeting is a reinforced coordination and cooperation among these workers in the Caterpillar plants throughout the world," Unterweger said Thursday from his home in Geneva.

"The real problem is that a company like Cat, like all the multinationals, can easily transfer capital and play workers off against each other. The workers, the unions, are very nationally rooted organizations and it's difficult to really create a strong international counterweight to the power of the company. We hope to take a real step in that direction in Peoria."

IMF members from England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Brazil, South Africa, Italy and elsewhere are expected in Peoria.

A native of Austria, Unterweger spent 16 years working with the United Auto Workers in this country. The UAW is a member of the International Metalworkers' Federation, which is 101 years old and has 18 million members in 70 countries.

"Workers throughout the world have tremendous problems with Caterpillar," Unterweger said. "When I came on the job two years ago, there already was a letter on my desk from workers in Belgium requesting we hold a major worldwide meeting."

The meeting will be May 5-6, followed the next day by a major labor rally in Peoria. …

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