What's happened in the eight days since UE workers in Erie went on strike against Wabtec

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A private-duty security truck waits near a Norfolk Southern locomotive ready for pick-up at the Wabtec Freight interchange with NS in Lawrence Park, Pa.
Stephan M. Koenig
ERIE, Pa. — It’s already been a full week since members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 506 and 618 went on strike.

In the days after it began the strike and its long-term effect on the union members began to become apparent when the unions urged members to apply for unemployment, claiming the work stoppage is a lockout because no agreement was reached before Wabtec took over GE Transportation. If Pennsylvania officials agree with the union, the 1700 workers out in the picket line would be eligible for unemployment benefits, otherwise they would get essentially nothing. Wabtec says the work stoppage is a strike.

While there were no negotiations on contracts between Wabtec and the unions they did sit down to negotiate something else, the rules of the picket line. The union already had their own rules put out to the picket line officers as to maintaining a peaceful line, though both sides negotiated that no more than 10 members could be in a picket line near company gates and the rest should be across the street. Wabtec indicated it would not move on its position to change wages but still urged the members to go back to work, reinforcing its position that it is not a lockout.

While they tried to implement the 10 in the line policy, this did not stop hundreds of other supporters to come out in support of the unions on March 3 garnering national attention. Supporters included local and national union members, some in full work uniforms. Local restaurants and stores also sent food for the strikers, at one time the local Walmart ran out of sandwich making essentials for the cause. More such displays of solidarity are expected as the strike continues.

While all this was going on by March 4 Wabtec was trying to show that it could maintain its newest addition despite the labor troubles. Norfolk Southern AC44C6M No. 4176 was interchanged with NS as NS was promised they would be shipped now. Railroad crews who were supposed to pick it up were told by radio that they should not pick it up while the strike was going on. NS officials declined to comment in an email to Trains.

On Monday, Wabtec also tested NS No. 4177 and Union Pacific Nos. 6065 and 7015 (a C44ACWM) and paid security aboard to maintain safety. Inside the plant, some work was being performed by salaried and temporary workers. According the to the Erie Times-News, Wabtec indicated that work will be sent to its own Boise, Idaho, facility which is much smaller and has fewer workers than the Erie plant.

The Erie Times-News reports that labor leaders and Wabtec officials are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the strike.

More information is available online. 

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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