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The members of UE Local 506 – our biggest local, representing 3,500 workers at the Erie, Pennsylvania plant of General Electric – are in a major fight for jobs. On April 9, management of GE Transportation announced to United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 506 that it intends to transfer a substantial amount of work done by our members to its newly-built non-union facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Local 506 members build locomotives and wheel motors for large mining trucks, as well as components for both, and GE plans to move major portions of both the locomotive and motorized wheel work to Texas.
According to the work transfer notice provided to UE, GE’s decision may result in the loss of up to 950 jobs by the end of 2013. GE pays substantially lower wages in Fort Worth than in Erie, and its attack on union jobs and wages is part of its so-called "competitive wage" strategy – a policy aimed at driving down the incomes of GE's manufacturing and other workers to near-poverty levels. This attack comes despite the fact that GE Transportation – GE's Erie-based division – made record profits in 2012. After the division's profits more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 to $757 million, they grew another 36 percent in 2012 to $1 billion.
The members of Local 506 are in a fighting mood, and they kicked off the battle to save jobs with a giant rally on April 16 just outside the plant's East Gate. Leaders of the local, the UE Eastern Region, and the national union vowed to fight to preserve union jobs, union wages and union working conditions. "This cannot happen," Local 506 Business Agent Wayne Burnett said of the company's plans. UE Local 618 – the salary workers union in Erie – is also in the thick of this battle.