Senator Casey Shows Solidarity With GE Unions Over Transfer of W - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Senator Casey Shows Solidarity With GE Unions Over Transfer of Work

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Senator Casey meets with UE 506 leadership Senator Casey meets with UE 506 leadership

U.S. Senator Bob Casey came to the UE 506 Union Hall in Lawrence Park to, in his words, express outrage about GE Transportation's recently announced plans to move locomotive production out of the Erie plant and transfer at least another 575 jobs to Fort Worth, Texas. Union President Scott Slawson said leadership was buoyed by the visit.  "It's a great morale booster to have some of your state and local leaders understand your position and stand next to you and tell General Electric we've had enough," Slawson said.

Senator Casey, sat down with the 17-member executive committee of UE 506. He was joined by County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, who helped to organize the meeting.  While acknowledging the downturn in the locomotive industry and the lower wages in Texas, Senator Casey said he hasn't seen a rationale for the move of jobs to Texas that makes any sense.  He told the leadership, "I'll tell what's not lower, the productivity...the productivity is better in Erie, the result is better in Erie, this work force is more skilled than any work force in the world at building locomotives, you've proven it over and over again and yet the company seems to be obsessed, obsessed with their shareholders only and not this community."  Casey went on to say, "So we have to do everything we can to fight against this and to demand that this company treat the community better."

In a statement, issued by Senior Global Communications Leader Cathy Heiman, GE defended its commitment to the Erie community. It read:  GE Transportation employees volunteered over 16,000 hours in the community and, together with the business, donated more the $2,250,000 for the community in 2016.  Just in August of 2017, we have held Community Day at Edison Elementary, Erie Gives sponsorship, Presque Isle Beach 11 mulching, Boys & Girls Club work day, Eastside YMCA multi-purpose room remodel, Sarah Reed gymnasium remodel, and much more.

Still, Senator Casey questioned that that commitment.  "Any effort that GE undertakes for the community in charitable giving or otherwise is always welcome, but that cannot camouflage or gloss over the decisions they've made time and again that result in job loss here in Erie," Casey said.  "If they're going to come to me for help on the tax code, or ex-im (export-import) bank, on this or that, they've got to start showing that they're going to invest in this community, they have to start showing that as a company, they're going to demonstrate that they understand the skill of this workforce and the contribution of this workforce not only to the community but especially to their own bottom line," he added.

GE's statement also said they remain committed to working with the union on any proposals they might offer.  The company says last year, they offered a plan to invest $114 million dollars for Erie improvements and retirement benefits, a 3-year moratorium on transter of work, and the creation of 150 new jobs in exchange for market-based wages for new hires and recalled employees, but they say the union rejected that proposal and did not take it to the membership for a vote.Union with an open mind for discussion. They have until August 10, 2017 to request Decision Bargaining. To date, they have not requested such discussions.

Scott Slawson said UE 506 members are weary from what they see as a pattern of the company seeking concessions in the midst of a negotiated contract, and the "decision bargaining" provision in their contract has not worked to save jobs.  "Shortly thereafter we get a notice that says we want to transfer work and we go into decision bargaining, and quite honestly since 1991, I don't think there's been but a handful of jobs saved and when I say a handful, I mean a very low number of jobs even saved, and that's among all the unions that's not just this union here, so it's a process that's proven it hasn't worked."   Slawson said, "maybe it's time to buy a new car,"  he words for trying a different approach, but he declined to say exactly what that might be.

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