Over 600 members of Locals 506 and 618 turned out on Labor Day to send a strong message to General Electric that they intend to fight to keep jobs in Erie.
The Labor Day rally was co-sponsored by the national pro-worker organization Good Jobs Nation. UE General President Peter Knowlton and Director of Organization Gene Elk both spoke about GE’s outrageous attack on the UE members and the Erie community. Local 506 President Scott Slawson denounced GE’s outrageous greed, noting that GE’s CEO makes more money in a day than UE members make in a year. Local 618 President Janet Grey spoke about the tragedy of one of her former co-workers, who passed away after the last layoff when the company ended his health care. Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, a former member of Congress, recounted how GE lobbied her office for help securing government funding for GE projects, but has now turned a deaf ear on Erie.
The two UE locals began decision bargaining this week over GE’s announced intention to move close to 600 jobs out of the Erie plant. The UE bargaining committee has been pressing the company for the information that they need to develop proposals to keep international locomotive production and other work in Erie. However, meetings have been largely unproductive. GE has so far failed to provide UE with any information on the work that it proposes to transfer from Erie to vendors. Company representatives claimed that they have not yet identified the vendors and cannot provide UE with the cost information.
Local 506 President Scott Slawson questioned how GE could make a preliminary transfer decision without knowing whether contractors could perform the work cheaper than UE members. He charged that GE’s rush to transfer work from the Erie plant is really retaliation for UE’s successful legal battle to stop the movement of international evolution locomotives earlier this year. In support of this claim, UE filed NLRB charges on Monday against GE claiming that GE is bargaining in bad faith and acting in a retaliatory manner.
UE-Unifor Solidarity Project
Last week UE and Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada, signed a historic agreement during the UE Convention in Pittsburgh to share resources, organize some of the same employers, and fight attempts by companies like GE to transfer worker from our plants.
Like UE in Erie, Unifor members in Peterborough, Ontario are fighting GE’s attempt to transfer work out of their plant, in this case to Mexico, Brazil, and France. Less than two weeks ago, GE announced to Unifor members that the off-shore work transfers will lead to the permanent closure of the 100-year old Peterborough facility. UE and Unifor are now discussing plans to jointly fight GE’s work transfers in both countries.