Nearly two years after a layoff
from Caterpillar Inc., Michael F. Thomas is going back to
day I walked out of the place April 4, 1985
is the day I wrote them off and thought Id never see
them again, Thomas, 34, of 601 N. Sixth St., Apt. 2
said Tuesday at his home.
took him two calls to the union hall to realize he was actually
going back to work, his wife, Laura Thomas, said.
native Pekinite is one of 542 United Auto Workers being recalled
this year from indefinite layoff as stipulated in the July
1986 UAW-Caterpillar contract.
1,385 former and current UAW workers were eligible for either
recall or an upgrade in job classification through programs
called Transition Period Phase I and II.
its bringing people on the streets back in the shop
and getting the proper job classifications, UAW Local
974 President Tony Green said. What it is, basically,
is getting seniority in line.
average maximum layoff period of the recalled workers is 24
to 26 months, Green said.
the eligible shop-skilled trade and labor-grade employees
and former employees, 947 attended job bid meetings in January.
A total of 690 people opted for new job classifications.
other recalls are planned during the contract period through
October 1988, Green said.
officials expected the first group of returning workers to
enter the plants Monday. A Caterpillar spokesman, however,
said the first recalls may not occur until Feb. 23. The bulk
of the transition program is expected to be finished by late
March or early April.
542 returnees also will cause a like amount of lower seniority
union members to lose their jobs.
replacing another union member, Thomas said: Sure, I
took his job. But I should have had a chance at it before.
has gone through the necessary meetings and paperwork but
has not yet been notified when he will return. When
I punch the clock, Ill be back to work then, he
many workers given indefinite layoffs since 1980, Thomas had
begun a new life after Caterpillar.
May, he would have completed a one-year electronics repair
certificate program at Illinois Central College. After school
he expected to find a job at about half of his former $13.16
an hour pay scale.
know the electronics field was getting bigger and better all
the time. My main intention with this was to hopefully open
my own repair shop, Thomas said.
Thomas returns to work as a day shift mill drill and bore
machine specialist, he will go through 10 days of retraining.
The pay is $13.44 an hour. I never thought Id
see that money again, he said.
he has mixed feelings about disrupting his studies once he
returns to work, Thomas said, Ive got one semester
left . . . Thats all I was geared for this last year.
matter what his schedule, Thomas plans to take classes
If it takes one course at a time until
his program is finished.
was hired at Caterpillar in August 1972 as a block chipper
at the Mapleton plant earning about $5.68 an hour. He spent
most of his working years as a nozzle shot blaster cleaning
newly forged engine blocks.
June 1982, he became a janitor at the Mossville facility and
later walked the picket lines during the seven-month strike
of 1982-83. He was laid off for seven weeks shortly thereafter,
returned and worked at various jobs within Caterpillar before
his last layoff in April 1985.
like the way the letter said, your services have been
temporarily interrupted, Thomas remembered of
his layoff notification.
married for 10 years, the Thomases have a 9-year-old daughter,
Brandy. Being out of work meant the family was forced to give
up a modest home for a two-bedroom apartment. They have relied
on public aid, food stamps and the $100 a month Mrs. Thomas
earned until recently as a playground and room supervisor
in the Pekin public school system.
of Thomas schooling expenses have been paid for through
the United Private Industry Council. UPICs been
great. I havent had any out-of-pocket expense for school
except when my mileage money went down, Thomas said.
the living hasnt been easy, especially when the family
took in a pregnant niece and a great-nephew for 10 months,
Thomas said they have survived by just going with the
guys who just hung on the chance theyd be recalled.
Not us. It was the only way we got along. We just wrote them
off from day one. Like I said, just go with the flow.
gone through strikes, recalls and job changes, Thomas was
guarded in his outlook on the future: It will probably
take a good two solid years of working to say Im going
to be here to retire.
in The Daily Times, Pekin, IL, February 17, 1987.