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Caterpillar: The moth flying too close to the flame

February 3, 2012

1-minute read

We treated them like royalty.

We rolled out the tax cut red carpet.

In fact our Prime Minister made a special stop at the London, Ontario Electro-Motive (EMT) plant in 2008, touting the $5 million in tax cuts we gave EMT.

It was all part of the 'tax cuts create jobs' rhetoric that Canadian politicians rhyme off by rote.

And EMT, part of the American industrial giant Caterpillar, has been reveling in financial glory.

Last month, Caterpillar reported annual profits rose 83 per cent to a record $4.9 billion.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman enjoyed a cool $10.5 million in pay last year.

But on January 1, EMT locked out the 460 workers at its London, ON plant and said: we'll pay you half of what you used to earn or we will leave the country. Happy new year.

Today, EMT has announced it is closing the London plant and is headed for America, to exploit workers there.

It is a dark day for those 460 London workers who have families to feed, mortgages to pay, and who did the only self-respecting thing a worker could do in that situation: attempt to negotiate a fair deal with their highly profitable employer.

They got no help from their senior governments. The corporate tax cuts were no help.

But Canadians – and, through international media interest, the world – have been watching with shock and disgust.

Brutish. Arrogance. Greed. These are some of the words Canadians are using on social media sites today.

EMT's bully tactics expose the corporate tax agenda for what it is: a flimsy political promise that Canadians can ill afford to keep bankrolling.

And, so, perhaps today – dark as it is – represents a tipping point for Canadians.

Perhaps this is the day we say to ourselves: it is time we demand of our governments a job creation and retention program that secures our middle class rather than institutionalizes working poverty.

Perhaps today is the day we stop rewarding cheap political gimmicks and demand more substantive interventions on behalf of, in Occupy parlance, the 99%.

Dr. Dawg's excellent blog reminds me today of this proverb: Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. Caterpillar, the corporation, may be trying to be the Monarch butterfly who takes flight but this kind of corporate bullying has no good end. (Actually, the Monarch butterfly population is in jeopardy.)

It may have taken flight, but today Caterpillar, the corporation, looks more like a moth that is flying far too close to the flame. Unfortunately, a lot of good people are getting burned in the process.

[UPDATE: Mike Moffatt has since written in this article that the widely touted $5 million did not all go to Electro-Motive]









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