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Here's what could happen if the UAW and Caterpillar don't reach an agreement on a new contract

There's still no new contract agreement in place between the United Auto Workers and Caterpillar as the expiration of the existing six-year contract looms just hours from now.

A missive from union leadership in Decatur is advising workers to clear out personal items stored at the company's facilities on Tuesday, and to report to work as usual Wednesday unless they hear otherwise from an official union source. Very few details about the current state of the negotiations are known. Caterpillar said it presented a revised economic proposal to the union last Friday, and negotiations continued through the weekend.

In a December newsletter, Local 974 union leadership said wages, benefits, 401(k)s, and vacation time were among some of the big ticket items on the table. More than 98% of union members voted to authorize a strike last month.

If a tentative agreement isn't reached by the March 1 deadline, a few things are possible. The two parties could agree to a temporary extension of the current contract to allow for more negotiating time. The union could also call a strike, or the company could lock workers out.

The UAW represents CAT workers in the Peoria area, as well as Decatur, Pontiac, and York, Pennsylvania. Workers in Morton and York can't strike, per the current contract agreement. The 2017 contract contained a plant closure moratorium, but it excluded the Aurora CAT facility that was ultimately shut down after the agreement was struck.

The UAW recently approved increasing strike pay from $400 a week to $500 a week. The Detroit Free Press reports that move was originally cleared back at the union's July 2022 convention, but only announced this month ahead of upcoming bargaining sessions with the major automakers.

Caterpillar is training salaried employees as a contingency plan to continue plant operations in the event of a strike.

Though Caterpillar's world headquarters is no longer in Peoria, it remains one of the area's largest employers.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.