The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Cont’d

Mar 17, 2009 7:03pm

Caterpillar, Inc. today announced it intends to lay off 2,454 employees at five plants in three states — including 911 employees at the plant in East Peoria, Ill., that President Obama visited in his push for Congress to pass the stimulus package.

As you may recall, on February 11, while campaigning in Virginia for his "Recovery and Reinvestment Act" to pass Congress, President Obama said that "Caterpillar, which manufactures machines used in this project has announced some 20,000 layoffs in the last few weeks. Today the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar said that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment plan passes, his company would be able to rehire some of those employees." 

At the Caterpillar factory on February 12, President Obama said that Jim Owens, the CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., "said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off." 

But after the president left the event, Owens made it clear that the stimulus package would not allow him to re-hire any recently laid off workers any time soon.

"I think realistically no," Owens said. "The truth is we’re going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again." 

These layoffs include, as of today, 1,726 employees in East Peoria and Aurora, Illinois; 439 employees at its large engine factory in Lafayette, Ind.; 89 employees at its fuel systems plant in Jefferson, Georgia.; and 200 employees at a plant in Griffin, Ga. 

Asked if these layoffs created any disconnect for those who, having listened to the President, might have thought the stimulus package would save Caterpillar jobs, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that was not the case. 

"We’re confident, as the CEO is confident, that, in the long run, based on the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the money that’s been lent will provide business opportunities for the company," Gibbs said. 

Gibbs continued, "I think that, as the money begins to go out, including the money that I just talked about having gone out over the course of the past several weeks, that businesses — not just like Caterpillar, but businesses throughout the country, teachers in schools that potentially faced layoffs, cops that the president visited that might lose their jobs — that the president believes, as the money begins to get let out as a result of the Recovery and Reinvestment plan, that businesses will make different economic decisions."

-jpt

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