Pittsburgh rally backs striking Wabtec workers

By Candace Wagner
July 24, 2023
Pittsburgh rally backs striking Wabtec workers
Militant/Tony Lane

PITTSBURGH — Two hundred and fifty people rallied at the Wabtec corporate headquarters here July 6 to back 1,400 members of United Electrical Workers Locals 506 and 618. The locals have been on strike at the company’s locomotive manufacturing plant near Erie, Pennsylvania, since June 22.

A busload of strikers was joined by supporters at the rally. A banner that read “Same job. Same quality. Same pay” addressed a central issue in the strike — substantially raising the wages of new hires and reducing the time it takes to reach the top rate. Under the 2019 contract new hires started at $20.47 an hour. It takes 10 years to reach full pay of $31.49.

“This is 1,400 families affected by boardroom greed,” Local 506 Treasurer Bryan Pietrzak told the crowd. “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 health care, vision, and dental insurances, and lastly we are fighting for company accountability by restoring our right to strike over grievances.”

When the factory was owned by General Electric, the union had the right to strike over grievances. After Wabtec took over the facility in 2019 that right was taken out of the contract the union got after a nine-day strike.

“Our unions at the Post-Gazette are fighting for many of the same reasons as the UE workers,” Natalie Duleba, a striking newsroom worker at the Pittsburgh newspaper, told the rally — “affordable health care, fair pay and respect from our employers.” Duleba is a member of NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America Local 38061, one of the locals on strike there.

The rally also called on Wabtec to start building battery-electric locomotives — which the union says is better for the environment and would create more jobs — in addition to its current diesels. Members of 19 unions, including six other UE locals, as well as environmental groups, took part in the rally.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 1112 — which won a union-recognition vote at the Ultium Cells electric car battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in December and is fighting for a contract — joined the picket line in Erie July 1. “The UE’s fight in Erie is everybody’s fight,” UAW Region 9 Director Dan Vicente said. “An attack on UE is an attack on all union workers in this country.”

The day after the rally UE reported that negotiations with Wabtec will resume July 11.

Show your solidarity! Picket lines are up 24/7. Build support in your union. Send solidarity messages to UE Local 506, 3923 Main St., Lawrence Park, PA 16511 or via fax: (814) 899-0666