Locomotive builders strike Wabtec in Erie, Pennsylvania
28 February 2019
Workers at the Wabtec locomotive plant in Erie, Pennsylvania struck Tuesday, the day after new owners unilaterally imposed sweeping concessions on 1,700 workers at the plant.
The walkout came after last-minute appeals by the United Electrical (UE) workers union for a temporary extension of the previous contract failed. The new terms include a two-tier wage structure, mandatory overtime, the consolidation of job classifications and the demand that employees use vacation during periods during temporary shutdowns. Workers currently on layoff who are called back to work would be forced to accept wage cuts of up to 38 percent under the two-tier structure, and the company can hire temporary workers to fill up to 20 percent of jobs at the plant.
Wabtec, formerly Westinghouse Air Brake Technology, just completed an $11 billion merger deal with General Electric to buy its transportation division as part of moves by GE to divest itself of some $20 billion in assets in order to raise cash to pay down debts. Because of the deal, Wabtec will now be listed in the S&P 500 stock index. The company was required to recognize the United Electrical workers as the bargaining agent at the locomotive plant, but it is not required to abide by terms of the existing labor agreement.
The GE deal included Wabtec’s purchase of the locomotive engine plant in Grove City, Pennsylvania, employing about 1,000 working under terms of a separate agreement. Engines built in Grove City are used for final assembly in Erie. Wabtec now also owns the former GE Transportation plant in Fort Worth, Texas, which is non-union.
This week’s walkout is the first open-ended strike at the…