Union caravan brings solidarity to Wabtec strike

By Malcolm Jarrett
August 14, 2023
Militant/Peter Oanes

ERIE, Pa. — Solidarity was the word of the day here July 29 as a car caravan brought strike supporters from Western Pennsylvania to join the strike picket line of United Electrical Workers Locals 506 and 618 at the entrance to Wabtec, which manufactures rail locomotives. The strike began June 22.

The convoy of strike supporters included union members and environmental and religious groups. Among those were members of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, UNITE HERE Local 57, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 19, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 56 and UE Local 213 from Staunton, Virginia. UE Local 506 President Scott Slawson thanked them for their solidarity as they joined some 80 strikers on the picket line.

UE Local 610 Vice President Jeff Kohler told the rally that Wabtec is “making a mockery of the grievance process.” Local 610 represents workers at Wabtec’s plants in Wilmerding and Greensburg, which are not on strike. The union is demanding the restoration of the right to strike over grievances, which they lost in the last contract. Other demands include ending a multitiered wage system where new hires start out earning one-third less than long-time workers and maintaining health care benefits.

UNITE HERE organizer Will Arthur told the rally he brought solidarity “from hotel workers in downtown Pittsburgh who are also fighting for a fair contract with good health care.”

The UE locals at Wabtec have a proud history of giving solidarity to other unions, from joining strike picket lines to contributing to their strike funds. This includes backing IAM shipbuilders during their strike in Bath, Maine, in 2020 and United Steelworkers on strike in Farrell in 2020-21. Get out the word! Join the picket lines! Fax solidarity messages to (814) 899-0666.