On Feb. 26, 1700, members of Machine Workers of America (UE) Locals 506 and 618 walked off their jobs at the tE Transportation locomotive plant located in Erie, Penn.
The strike occurred the day after the new owners, Wabtec Corp., took over. Wabtec's new terms and conditions are unacceptable according to the union. Those conditions include mandatory overtime and arbitrary schedules, wage reductions of up to 38% for recalled and newly-hired workers, and the right to use temporary workers for up to 20% the work in the plant.
The UE negotiating committee was not able to convince the company to negotiate an acceptable short-term agreement that preserves the wages, benefits, and working conditions negotiated with GE over the past eight decades, the union said.
“We are extremely disappointed that the company could not see its way to agree to continue the terms and conditions that we have worked under for decades,". said Scott Slawson, president of UE Local 506.
U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued a statement of support for UE members:
There is no reason for a profitable corporation like Wabtec to force workers into 12-hour shifts without overtime pay. There is no reason for them to force their employees to work on holidays and weekends. There is no reason for them to slash wages by up to 38 percent for 460 recalled workers and new hires. There is no reason for them to replace up to 20 percent of their workforce with low-paid, temporary workers.
“Wabtec is not a poor company. This is a company that is expected to generate over $8 billion in revenue this year as a result of its merger with General Electric. This is a company that has enough money to provide some $60 million in payments to 20 top Wabtec executives through this merger. This is a company that has enough money to hand out some $65 million in ‘incentive payments’ to 415 high-level GE employees.
“In the last two years, Wabtec has received nearly 50 federal government contracts. The word must go out: any company that does business with the federal government must treat its workers with respect.