Locals 506 and 618 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) have been in intense contract negotiations in the last month on a new contract at the Wabtec Industries locomotive plant in Erie, PA. A strike authorization vote will be held this Saturday as little headway has been made in bargaining.
Throughout the negotiations Wabtec has demonstrated one goal of exploiting its workers as much as it can. UE prides itself on being a rank-and-file lead union and as such have continuously pushed for the demands its members have asked for. One such demand is the right to strike over grievances, a right the union had until their last contract. The need to regain this right was highlighted in a flyer issued by Local 506 on May 11 stating:
“If we needed one more reason why we need the right to strike over grievances, the company just gave it to us last week when they informed us that they would be scheduling out unscheduled vacations for the remainder of the year.”
As if forcing workers to take their vacations—in violation of their contract—when they see fit wasn’t enough, Wabtec is refusing to negotiate on any non-economic issues.
Wages proposals have been no better. Wabtec is refusing to budge on a proposal in which they offer workers only one wage increase of an insulting 2%, with three lump sum payments of $1500 over a 3-year deal. To their credit, the union isn’t budging either. Their counterproposal—in our opinion, a more than reasonable one—of wage increases of 12%, 6% and 6% with a cost-of-living adjustment of a penny an hour for every .071429 of 1% increase in the cost-of-living.
LUEL stands with the workers of UE Locals 506 and 618. Wabtec can’t produce a single locomotive without the labor of their workers and must compensate them accordingly. The right to strike is the most fundamental democratic right at the disposal of the working class and must be protected at all times.