Harkins issues statement in response to Wabtec-union contract ratification

ERIE, June 13 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, issued the following statement in response to news that members of UE Locals 506 and 618 yesterday ratified a four-year labor agreement with their new employer, locomotive manufacturer Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp., after 128 days of negotiations and a nine-day strike:

“I’m exceedingly proud of the union for having the fortitude and determination to stand up and fight for its members. The negotiation process required the union to rewrite its entire contract from scratch, which was a long and difficult path with a lot riding on the outcome. Through it all, union leaders stood their ground to ensure Wabtec workers receive the benefits and protections they deserve.

“I’m especially pleased that the new contract will provide workers with improved health and welfare benefits; five-year recall rights for laid-off workers; a commitment for new work equivalent to 100 full-time employees by the end of the contract; and a continued policy of volunteer, as opposed to mandatory, overtime, among other protections. It’s also a step in the right direction to see that new workers will be able to increase their wages over a 10-year period until they are on-par with the legacy employees. The negotiations proved that, in this day and age, labor and management can co-exist.

“Most of all, I know members are relieved to return to work. Having been through contract negotiations and a few strikes at UPS, I understand how good it is to get that behind you and get back to the job. Wabtec and its dedicated, talented workforce are an essential contributor to our regional economy, and I’m looking forward to working with both labor and management in any way I can.”