March 28, 2011

UAW Reacts to CAT Letter to Quinn

By Eric Shangraw

August 11, 2011 Updated Aug 11, 2011 at 1:09 PM CDT

The United Auto Workers Local 974 is advising the governor of Illinois to pay attention to Caterpillar.

Last week CAT's CEO sent a letter to Governor Pat Quinn saying Big Yellow is being lured by other state's to relocate.

And Doug Oberhelman says he's taking the overtures seriously.

Eric Shangraw has more on the governor's response and the UAW's reaction to Caterpillar's concerns.

Monday afternoon appearing at his alma mater, Millikin University, CAT CEO Doug Oberhelman reiterated his concerns about the business climate in Illinois. He says he's committed to working with the governor to change it.

"We really wish a start of a dialog to turn Illinois into a fiscally responsible and sound state which to live and invest," Oberhelman said.

Oberhelman's comments come after he sent a letter to Governor Quinn last week saying it was not a threat, but other states are trying to entice CAT to leave Illinois. Oberhelman says Illinois is headed in a direction that is not favorable to business. Quinn says he's ready to talk but not give away the farm.

"Caterpillar is not leaving Illinois," said the Governor. "Let's get that put in perspective. They had a very good year. We have good workers in Illinois. We shouldn't sell ourselves short. I don't think we should get in a panic at all," he said.

UAW Local 974 President Dave Chapman says Caterpillar does not bluff. He says the union will do what it can to help heal the riff between business and state government.

"If something needs to be done to help them run their corporation or to maneuver themselves in a way where they can possibly make more money, I guess that's what corporations jobs are. When they are talking to you, you better listen because if you don't listen bad things can happen," he said.

A Cat spokesman says the recent income tax increase is costing the company's Illinois employees 40-million dollars.

"If you think about 23,000 people working in the state of Illinois, they pay taxes as individuals as well," said Spokesman Jim Dugan. "The desire here is to get a conversation going; a serious conversation that we hope will lead to reform," he said.

"It is important when we go out and recruit whether it is at a campus, whether it is at another state; whether it is at another country; that we have the most attractive place to live and work," said Oberhelman.

Oberhelman says Quinn is coming to CAT late next week to talk about the company's concerns. He says they'll have a private discussion which will not be played out in sound bites over the airways.

The governor says he welcomes the dialog.