Showdown On Labor's Front Line

The Caterpillar strike could make or break a powerful union

IT IS BILLED AS THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOWDOWN between management and labor in this country since Ronald Reagan crippled the air-traffic-controll ers union 11 years ago. But the situation in Peoria, Ill., involving the leadership of Caterpillar Inc. and the United Auto Workers is really all about pain.

At issue are the jobs of 13,000 striking workers caught in the middle of a fight between the 900,000-member U.A.W. and Caterpillar, the world's largest construction-machinery manufacturer. Many strikers have been out of work for five months and are having a hard time supporting their families on benefits of $100 a week. But...

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