UNION BLASTS GE ANNOUNCEMENT OF MORE JOB LOSSES
In response to GE’s announcement yesterday of its intent to take more work out of the Erie plant, UE Local 506 issued the following press release:
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), the union representing production and maintenance workers at the Erie GE plant, is expressing anger and a sense of betrayal at GE’s July 27 announcement that it plans to move international locomotive production out of Erie to Fort Worth, Texas, at a cost of 575 Erie jobs.
Local 506 President Scott Slawson said the union feels betrayed by the company’s announcement. Despite previous rounds of layoffs in Erie since GE opened the Fort Worth plant in 2012, the union has worked with the company to secure the existing jobs in the Erie plant and improve the plant’s performance. “We’ve been working very closely with them for the past year and a half to improve quality, efficiency, delivery. Our efficiency is up to triple what Fort Worth’s is in the locomotive business, and it’s still not enough for them.
Slawson added, “Last November we signed a Job Preservation Agreement with this company in an effort to not just preserve jobs but preserve the future of Erie. That agreement was signed in good faith and ratified by a vote of our membership. We were led to believe, by the company, that this was going to secure the future in Erie. Yet here we are, eight months later, being handed a transfer of work notice that basically says, we like what you’ve done but too bad.”
Slawson questioned the wisdom of the company’s decision to concentrate locomotive production in Fort Worth, a plant whose performance has lagged far behind Erie’s. “Our efficiency in Erie has risen and been maintained. The latest figures we’ve seen indicate that efficiency percentage in locomotive production in Fort Worth is in the lowest of all GE Transportation plants, while Erie’s efficiency is more than double Fort Worth’s.” He also noted that when GE began operating the Fort Worth plant four years ago it described it as an “overflow” facility, auxiliary to the Erie plant, but that GE has now betrayed those commitments.
The company, in Slawson’s view, is obsessed with pursuing cheap labor to the detriment of all other considerations. He said the Fort Worth plant has a high rate of employee turnover because of low wages. Workers are leaving GE Fort Worth and finding union-represented jobs at much higher pay.
Slawson thanked U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) for his statement criticizing GE’s actions. Earlier Thursday Casey issued a statement saying GE had “turned its back on Northwestern Pennsylania and the workers who have made its company a success,” and calling the company’s actions “insulting”. Casey added, “The skilled, experienced workers in Erie have done everything that has been asked of them, only to get slapped in the face by GE over and over again.”
National union officials of UE and of Local 506 plan to meet in the coming days. “We’re meeting with our leaders and members in Erie to review all options for fighting this outrageous attack by GE,” said Gene Elk, UE’s Director of Organization, one of its three national officers.
Elk added, “The Erie GE plant has been in operation for more than 110 years. Generations of Erie workers, their families and the entire community have worked hard and sacrificed to build this company, and GE has made billions of dollars in Erie.” Elk noted that as recently as the 1970s GE employed 20,000 people in Erie, manufacturing a variety of products, but the company had steadily downsized the plant by removing one product line after another. “Each time it eliminated another Erie business, GE assured the workers and the community of its ‘commitment to Erie’ and that the remaining jobs would be retained,” said Elk.