EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- President Bush plugged his economic policies Tuesday, telling an audience at Caterpillar Inc.'s manufacturing plant that his administration's actions played a role in helping Caterpillar achieve its three-year string of record earnings.
....."In this company," Bush told a crowd of about 400 Caterpillar employees and local officials, "you've shown how to compete in a global economy."
Caterpillar has long been known for its organizational and logistical prowess in support of its far-flung operations. However, it was not always as lean and efficient as it has become over the past decade. In the early 1990s Caterpillar endured a series of lengthy and bitter strikes by the United Auto Workers union, as it sought to rein in wages and benefits.
The company eventually prevailed, and for more than a decade has experienced labor peace with the UAW. The Peoria-based company employs about 17,000 people in the local area, but its production workforce is smaller than it once was, thanks in part to the company's expansion of production in Asia and Europe. A residue of bitterness over those strikes still lingers among former workers for the town's leading employer.
......Caterpillar is a major exporter, and it also produces products in foreign markets for sale in those regions. But it was apparent when Bush spoke that the rank-and-file workers remain unconvinced on the issue.
When Bush told the crowd, "We don't need more taxes," he drew a big round of applause. But the group failed to respond with similar warmth when he told the workers that "the temptation is to say: `Let's protect ourselves. Let's isolate ourselves.'"
Gee, I wonder why they're skeptical. After Cat's egregious Union busting in the nineties followed up by job, wage and benefit cuts it's not much of a surprise they aren't cheering the company's record profits. That Bush thought that this was the crowd to get footage of workers clapping in response to his free trade gospel is a sign of how completely disconnected from real life he is.