Decision bargaining with General Electric failed to produce an agreement to avert a transfer of work, but the members of UE Local 506 are not giving up the fight to keep good jobs in Erie.
“This fight is a long way from over,” said Local 506 President Scott Slawson, “and nothing is off the table. We’re going to leverage political pressure, charges with the NLRB, and of course engage our membership to put internal pressure on the company.”
Within 12 hours of the conclusion of bargaining the company announced that it is transferring production of international locomotives and other work to non-union plants in Ft. Worth, Texas and elsewhere.
“This rush to announce the decision shows that GE had no intention of bargaining in good faith to keep work in Erie,” said Director of Organization Gene Elk.
Company Refused to Commit to Erie
Throughout the entire round of bargaining, GE has demanded massive wage concessions based upon fabricated savings it claims are possible if UE members’ work is transferred to Ft. Worth and elsewhere. Even with its unjustified demands for cuts, the company has only offered to retain 35% of international locomotive assembly and kits in Erie.
GE’s demands do not include any long-term commitments to Erie and even its proposal to keep 35% of the work in Erie expires in June 2019. The company would then be free to transfer all remaining locomotive manufacturing during the last half of 2019.
The State of Pennsylvania offered GE significant financial assistance to keep jobs in Erie, but in exchange it insisted upon real company commitments to retain work in the state over a reasonable period of time. GE has so far refused Pennsylvania’s offer of assistance because it does not want to commit to Erie.
“We tried everything we could to get a long-term work commitment from GE but they refused to provide anything longer than 18 months,” said Slawson. “Like the state of Pennsylvania, UE Local 506 has rejected GE’s wage concessions because we have no intention of funding GE’s transfer of our jobs to Texas and elsewhere.”
Keeping Up the Fight
UE Local 506 members deliver General Electric a notice of intent to strike over bargaining unit work transfers
UE has filed charges with the NLRB charging that the company violated the law when it issued the transfer notice, bargained in bad faith during the entirety of the decision bargaining process, and refused to provide information to the union.
Local 506 has also filed numerous grievances on the job transfer issue. Under the UE-GE National Contract, Local 506 has the right to strike, for any length of time, on any grievance after it has gone through the three-step grievance procedure.
In addition, the union is pursuing avenues to pressure GE through international solidarity and political action. At the end of this month, Local 506 members will be traveling to Toronto to meet with UE partner Unifor, which represents GE workers in Canada. And in mid-September, UE General President Peter Knowlton and Local 506 executive board member Matt McCracken participated in a press conference in Washington, DC with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the pro-worker organization Good Jobs Nation to demand that the federal government stop awarding federal contracts to companies like GE that destroy good jobs. Good Jobs Nation also co-sponsored a Labor Day rally in Erie with Local 506.
“We greatly appreciate all the support that UE and all the locals have given us,” concluded Slawson. “We have received a lot of strength and a lot of wisdom from that solidarity.”