Almost 800 union workers at a Caterpillar facility in Joliet started striking early Tuesday morning after rejecting a contract from the Peoria-based company.
Union representative Steve Jones, with the International Association of Machinists, said the disagreement came down to hourly pay and health care costs. Two thirds of its workers make $28 an hour, but newer employees have made $13 an hour for the past six years, he said - and the new contract the company offered didn't include any raises.
"We care about our jobs. We're not anti-corporate," Jones said. "We just want to help share in the wealth that we help create."
Jones said he's talking about Caterpillar's most recent earnings. Last week, the company said first quarter profit jumped almost 30 percent mostly because of strong demand for its mining equipment.
Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn said for now, the Joliet work has been taken over by managers and employees from other parts of the company.
"The Joliet facility will continue to work safely, meet production levels and conduct business as usual as we focus on meeting customer needs," Dunn said.
Both sides said they are waiting for the other to come back to the bargaining table.