Hundreds of machinist workers at Joliet's Caterpillar facility went on strike Tuesday morning after they turned down a proposed contract offering no pay raise and more expensive health benefits.
The union workers told NBC Chicago the contract offer was so unfair they'd rather be picketing outside the plant's main entrance. They reported for work at 11 p.m. Monday then walked off the job at 12:01 a.m.
Union leaders said 94 percent of the approximately 780 machinist union workers voted to strike after the contract offer was voted down Sunday.
The deal was six years with no pay increases, and workers would be required to pay twice as much for health care. The workers say it's unfair, especially given Caterpillar's $1.5 billion first-quarter profit.
"I've never felt more disrespected in my life," said union worker Corey Jones of the contract. "We all have families to feed and the CEO is getting this huge bonus, and I feel like he's taking away from us to pay for his bonus."
"The company is not playing fairly," said union worker Rich Shelton. "They have made record profits in these 16 years that I've been here, and they feel that it's not necessary to share it with the people who actually make them money."
Even with nearly 800 workers on strike, a company spokesman said Caterpillar will remain open and management has a contingency plan in place.
"The Company was prepared for this situation," said Rusty Dunn, a company spokesman. "The Joliet facility will remain open and our contingent workforce has been deployed to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our customers without interruption. Our principal mission is to serve our customers under any circumstances and deliver on our commitments."
A negotiator for the union said there are no plans to meet back at the bargaining table.