GE Workers on Strike
1,700 workers at a GE plant in Pennsylvania went on strike, the first big work stoppage in U.S. manufacturing in three years, according to HuffPost. Workers at the Erie, PA plant haven’t gone on strike themselves since 1969.
Members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) accuse Wabtec Corp., who recently merged with GE’s locomotive division, of trying to implement mandatory overtime, lower pay for new workers, and the use of temporary workers. The union failed to secure a temporary extension of their GE contract with Wabtec, leading them to authorize the strike.
Wabtec, as the new owner, is required by law to recognize the union. But they can negotiate a new contract.
Workers also concerned that hiring new employees for lower pay—approximately 38 percent lower than current wages, according to Kissam—could create divisions in the union.
Wabtec says that the new workers would be hired at a “competitive wage” and that a two tier wage system is necessary to compete in the global market. In a local op-ed, Greg Sbrocco, a
Wabtec senior VP, said the two tier system was ”a standard practice by U.S. manufacturing companies to aggressively compete with competitors in low-cost countries like China or Mexico.”
Workers don’t agree.
The GE workers join others in the country who are currently on strike, including teachers in Oakland. Teachers in West Virginia are also considering striking again, just a year after they walked out over low pay and managed to secure a new contract with a five percent pay raise. The new potential is in response to a bill that would allow charter schools in the state.