New Report: Green Locomotives Mean Thousands of Jobs for Erie, Western PA

April 25, 2023

A new study, conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, details the thousands of new, high-quality jobs that can be created through the manufacture of “green locomotives” at Wabtec’s Lawrence Park facility in Erie.

The study estimates the number of new jobs that would be created in the plant at between 2,600 and 4,300. In addition to direct jobs in the plant, the increased production would add between three and five thousand new jobs in Erie County due to increased demand for goods and services. The total employment impact throughout the U.S. would be between 9,860 and 14,960 jobs.

UMass Professor Gregor Semieniuk, one of the study’s authors, presented the key findings at a virtual press conference on April 25. Semieniuk and his co-author, PERI Co-Director Robert Pollin, considered two scenarios: an initial phase in which production at the plant increases to 500 locomotives per year, and a second phase in which production increases to 1,000 locomotives per year, a volume that the plant was producing just 15 years ago. They looked at both increased production of the low-emissions “Tier 4” diesel-electric locomotives that the plant currently produces, and production at scale of battery-electric locomotives.

UE Local 506 President Scott Slawson, whose local represents the production workers at the facility, noted that “The members of UE Local 506 are the most skilled locomotive builders in America if not the world, having a combined experience of over 20,000 years. This facility is significantly underutilized and we believe it should be put to use building Tier 4 locomotives, as well as the next generation of cleaner, zero-emission locomotives, that are desperately needed in our country.

“Wabtec has an opportunity to be part of the solution to our nation’s climate challenges, while creating thousands of good, family-sustaining jobs right here in Erie.”

UE General President Carl Rosen agreed, noting that Wabtec recently spent $750 million on stock buy-backs, enriching its Wall Street investors. “When you can put that kind of money into supporting Wall Street, you can certainly put real money into making sure that your facility in Erie can produce green locomotives, and that’s what we’re calling on them to do.”

Kyle Hannon, the regional manager for Senator Bob Casey, said the Senator believes that “Any climate action must also include job creation, as well as the promotion of the right to organize, achieve better wages, and higher labor standards.” He continued, “This report demonstrates that by tackling the climate crisis, and making our railroads cleaner and safer, we can do exactly that.” Hannon said the Senator commended UE’s leadership in putting this vision forward, and emphasized that the Senator “Remains committed to advancing the deployment of green locomotives.”

“We are optimistic, we believe the future is bright for Erie,” concluded Slawson, “but we need the company to listen and work with us.”


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