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US workers strike for green jobs

10 July, 2023The picket lines around the Wabtec facility in Erie, Pennsylvania, USA, continue to be strong as the strike enters its third week. 1,400 workers at the facility which manufactures locomotive engines, are striking for green jobs.

According to a recent report, producing green locomotives at Wabtec’s Erie plant could bring thousands of new, high-quality jobs to northwest Pennsylvania, an area hard-hit by de-industrialization.

Prototypes for green locomotives are already made at the plant. In negotiations with the employer, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America Locals 506 and 618, proposed language that would guarantee that green locomotive work be done in Erie. Instead, Wabtec threatened move at least 275 jobs out of the plant.

The two locals voted down the employer’s offer and went on strike on 22 June for a contract that will allow them to move forward with green locomotive production.

Says Bryan Pietrzak, financial secretary for UE Local 506:

“This is 1,400 families affected by boardroom greed. We are fighting an onslaught of union-busting tactics from the notorious Jones Day law firm, we are fighting for a family-sustaining wage for new hires, we are fighting to maintain our healthcare, vision, and dental insurances, and lastly we are fighting for company accountability by restoring our right to strike over grievances.”

 “It is a shame that, because of this company’s greed, we are having to fight them, instead of working with them to build the green locomotives that are essential to our country’s climate future. In negotiations, we proposed to do that, because green locomotive production would bring thousands of good, quality jobs into Erie PA and the Western PA area. This company said NO.”

Says Christine Olivier, IndustriALL assistant general secretary:

“The union is committed to the company investing in building green locomotives for the future, but Wabtec very irresponsibly responds with union busting. The striking members have IndustriALL’s full support and we call on Wabtec to engage in genuine negotiations with the locals to find a solution for a just transition.”

A meeting between the union and the employer is scheduled for 11 July.