Caterpillar Inc. Strike Continues Amid Record Profits

Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc. reported soaring second-quarter profits amid growing demand for its heavy construction and mining equipment, and it's on pace for record profits for the year. But three months into a strike by hundreds of workers at a suburban Chicago plant, Cat refuses to sweeten the "last, best offer" that would freeze pay, reduce pension benefits and increase health care costs. The CEO says Cat is ready to cut costs even more if the economy should weaken.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a boost from Caterpillar.

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MONTAGNE: Caterpillar is reporting a big increase in its profits - up 67 percent for the second quarter. The world's largest manufacturer of heavy construction and mining equipment is on pace to rake in record profits this year. But that hasn't motivated Caterpillar to sweeten its offer to union workers who are on strike at a plant outside of Chicago.

From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper has more.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan says despite a still somewhat sluggish economy, sales of the Peoria-based company's bulldozers, backhoes, mining equipment and engines are on fire.

JIM DUGAN: Last year was a record year for sales and revenues, as well as profits, and it was the all-time best quarter in the history of the company for the second quarter of 2012.

SCHAPER: But what's good for Caterpillar's shareholders isn't necessarily good news for CAT employees.

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SCHAPER: Especially these union machinists standing on the picket line outside cat's hydraulics plant in Joliet, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. They've been on strike since May 1st, after rejecting Caterpillar's best and final offer, which union member Mike Kinkin says would have essentially frozen wages, while reducing pension benefits and increasing health care costs.

MIKE KINKIN: It's just sad to see that the people that have - on our backs, that they've made their profits and that over the years, the 40 years that I've been here, and now they just don't care. It's all money.

SCHAPER: CAT officials say they're paying market wages and their final offer is competitive one. But Kinkin says he and the others on strike are fighting to keep these manufacturing workers in the middle class.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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