Caterpillar will rehire workers if stimulus passes

Company plans more than 20,000 job cuts
February 12, 2009 7:07:06 AM PST
President Obama said Wed. that machinery giant Caterpillar Inc. plans to rehire some of its laid-off workers if Congress approves a sweeping stimulus bill.The president sought to offer a clear example of how the legislation would help as House and Senate negotiators reached for a final deal with the White House, trimming the emerging legislation down to below $800 billion. That's still an enormous package, targeted at an economy that continues to bleed jobs.

Obama's mention of Caterpillar also came just one day before he was heading to Peoria, Ill., to visit the company's workers and keep pushing his plan. The heavy-equipment maker has announced more than 20,000 job cuts, as shrinking credit and construction demands hurt orders for tractors and other machines.

Said Obama: "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." He did not specify to whom the company chairman and CEO, Jim Owens, made such a pledge.

Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said that he had no comment on the president's account of the company's plans but did not dispute it either. He said the company did not want to discuss ahead of time what its chairman would say during the president's visit, but that it looked forward to hosting Obama.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Caterpillar "did communicate to the White House" that it plans to reevaluate its employment situation, particularly in Peoria and downstate Illinois, based on "a big investment that could be coming shortly to put Americans back to work."

As anticipation grew for an economic bill that Obama could sign, the president kept up his pattern of getting outside Washington to promote his ideas. He spoke on Wednesday from a highway construction site in Springfield, outside Washington, where work is under way but more money will be needed.

Obama said he welcomed the conversation in the nation's capital about the economic plan - but just as quickly added that "the time for talk has passed."

"I am here today because you don't need to travel very far from that debate to see why enacting this plan is both urgent and essential to our recovery," Obama said, standing with Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine on a windy hillside near the Fairfax County Parkway connector, with bulldozers off in the distance.

To keep up momentum, Obama centered on not just the real-world consequences of a hurting economy, but also grabbed hold of what can happen when infrastructure starts to fail. He noted a devastating bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the levees that failed when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans.

"We see the consequences every day in ways that may be less drastic, but are, nonetheless, burdens on local communities and economies," Obama said. He described those as "time with family lost because of longer daily commutes; growth held back by streets that can't handle new business; money wasted on fuel that's burned in worsening traffic."

Obama has also traveled to Indiana and Florida this week to pitch the stimulus plan, holding more extensive town-hall events in those hard-hit areas.

"So much depends on what we do at this moment," Obama said. "It's not just about the future of my administration. It's about the future of our families and communities, our economy and our country. We are going to do this carefully and transparently and effectively as possible because so much is on the line."

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