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More than 8,700 Caterpillar workers have set down their picket signs now that their union has told them to end their 17-month strike. The United Auto Workers leadership called it quits despite a vote by workers on Sunday rejecting a six-year contract that would limit job security, create lower wage scales for some workers, limit union activity and give the company more power to schedule odd working hours without paying overtime. Caterpillar may be in no hurry to put the strikers back to work: the company has posted record profits with a combination of strikers who crossed picket lines, temporary workers and new hires since the strike began on June 21, 1994.