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GE workers go on strike over negotiations with new ownership



Photo: UE

Today, 1700 workers at a GE facility in Pennsylvania, the first major work stoppage in US production in three years, according to HuffPost. The workers at Erie, PA facility have not been striking since 1969.

Members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) accuse Wabtec Corp., which recently merged with GE's locomotive division, of trying to implement mandatory overtime, lower wages for new employees and the use of temporary workers. The union failed to secure a temporary extension of the GE contract with Wabtec, which led to the approval of the strike.

Wabtec, as the new owner, is required by law to recognize the union. But they can negotiate a new contract.

"We are disappointed with their decision," Deia Campanelli, a Wabtec spokeswoman, told HuffPost. "These are big-paying jobs for that community, for that region."

According to union members, workers in the factory, where wages are on average $ 35 per hour, have been pretty good.

UE spokesman Jonathan Kissam told HuffPost that the workers are not against overtime – many are already volunteers for it. But they will not be forced into it, as they fear could cut in time with their families.

Workers were also concerned with hiring new employees for lower wages, about 38 percent lower than current wages, according to Kissam-able divisions in the Union.

"This is a generation of several generations. Some of them, their grandparents worked there," Kissam told HuffPost. "So they are not willing to sell their own children."

"Wabtec wants to do this an Amazon stock, "he says.

Wabtec says the new workers will be employed on a" competitive salary "and that a two-tier payroll system is needed to compete in the global marketplace. Sbrocco, a senior Wabtec director, said the two tier systems were "a standard practice from US manufacturing companies to compete with competitive companies in low-cost countries like China or Mexico."

Employers Don't Agree

"We feel the terms they highlighting our members was unacceptable, "said Scott Slawson, president of the UE Local 506, to HuffPost." We felt it was best to just stand on the picket line. "

In a letter last week, then called Bernie Sanders on Wabtec h their agreement with the Union. Today, he told HuffPost that he was "proud to stand" with the association in his fight against the Wabtec Group to maintain decent wages and working conditions.

The GE workers come with others in the country who are currently in strike, including teachers in Oakland. West Virginia teachers also plan to strike again, just a year after they went beyond low pay and managed to secure a new five percent pay rise contract. The new potential is in response to a bill that will allow charter schools in the state.


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