Category Archives: trade unions

Court rules in favor of Beaver County power plant workers in FirstEnergy dispute

The Bruce Mansfield plant owned by FirstEnergy Corp. in Shippingport, Beaver County.

By Luke Torrance
Pittsburgh Business Times

Jul 8, 2019 – A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of about 230 union power plant workers in Beaver County, supporting the union’s claim for $5.5 million in back wages.

In a decision filed last week in Cincinnati, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said that FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. had committed an unfair labor practice when it imposed a contract on the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 272 workers at the Bruce Mansfield coal-fired plant, located in Shippingport.

The contract between FirstEnergy and the union expired in 2014; after a year of negotiations, the company declared an impasse in October 2015. FirstEnergy implemented a contract that contained some previously discussed provisions, such as the elimination of retiree health subsidies for all in-the-box retirees by the end of the year. But provisions that the union had fought for, such as a wage increase, were not implemented, resulting in the union filing an unfair practice charge. Continue reading Court rules in favor of Beaver County power plant workers in FirstEnergy dispute

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The Road Not Taken

The shuttering of the GM works in Lordstown will also bury a lost chapter in the fight for workers’ control.

By Sarah Jaffe
The New Republic

June 24, 2019 – Illustration by Nicolas Ortega Chuckie Denison took the podium at the United Steelworkers hall in Canton, Ohio, in his ever-present blue Good Jobs Nation T-shirt, flanked by people holding protest signs. One handmade sign read “Promises Made, Promises Broken”; it featured a likeness of President Trump, who’d flown into Ohio that day for a big-money fund-raiser at a nearby country club. Another sign pointed out that Lordstown, home of the iconic General Motors auto plant, was only 49.4 miles away. Still another read, “We will lose 43,000 jobs because of Lordstown closing.”

Denison leaned into the microphone and told the assembled crowd his story, introducing himself as a third-generation GM autoworker. “I started in Dayton, Ohio. I watched that plant close. I went to Shreveport, Louisiana. I watched that plant close. I come here to Lordstown, Ohio, happy to be back in my home state. I’d never have thought that Lordstown would close.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Denison said, Trump came to northeast Ohio and promised better days. “He looked the people in the eyes and told them, ‘Do not sell your homes. The jobs are coming back.’”

The jobs never came back. When GM announced, last November, that the Lordstown plant would be closed as part of a restructuring plan, the community held out hope that the company would decide to retool the plant, and rehire some of the laid-off workers. But the last Chevrolet Cruze rolled off the Lordstown assembly line on March 6—a no-frills white model that workers draped in an American flag and posed behind for a last photo.

Variations of this scene have played out in countless shuttered plants and deindustrializing communities over the past four decades. But with the closure of Lordstown, workers are losing more than paychecks, retirement plans, and long-term job security; they’re also burying a lost chapter in union organizing—the moment in the early 1970s when the militant leaders of United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the Lordstown facility briefly revived the demand for greater control in the workplace. With the specter of Trump, the self-advertised mogul-savior of the manufacturing sector, lurking offstage, the last days of Lordstown feel like a parable about what becomes of workers in a political economy that hinges on their systematic disenfranchisement—on the factory floor and in the public sphere alike.

And as a twenty-first–century parable of the workplace, it naturally involved Donald Trump spouting off on Twitter. Nearly two weeks after the last car left the plant, Trump fired off a couple of tweets telling David Green, president of UAW Local 1112, to “get his act together and produce.” That outburst, combined with the news that Trump was heading to Ohio but skipping the plant, led to the press conference where Denison had laid into GM and Trump.

At the same event, Ohio Democratic Representative Tim Ryan—who’s mounting a 2020 run at the presidency—spoke about how plant closures destabilize the entire community. “You hear from a football booster, ‘So-and-so had to transfer. He was treasurer of the football boosters. So-and-so had to transfer. They ran this Boy Scout group,’” he said. “That’s what workers are…. They put their time in. You do everything right and then when you get home, you go coach Little League.” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten joined him in calling for GM to reopen the plant. “If parents lose their jobs, it devastates the community,” she told me afterward. “Teachers understand that; they are in some ways the first responders.”

Alyssa Brookbank is one of those teachers and the president of the Lordstown Teachers Association. She’s seen the effects of the shutdown up close. “Students know they are going to have to leave some of their family and close friends behind,” she said. “They don’t know how to handle it, and it is not their fault. It is a lot to put on the shoulders of young kids. This is much bigger than just GM. It is going to affect other businesses in ways we don’t even realize yet. It is going to have a ripple effect.”

Denison has the words “Union Thug” tattooed across his forearm in sweeping script. Higher up on his arm, he told me, he has a tattoo of the state of Ohio. He returned to Ohio, to work at Lordstown, just in time for the bottom to fall out of the economy in 2008. By that time, he had enough seniority with GM—having hired on right out of high school in 1998—to survive the wave of layoffs that came with GM’s bankruptcy filing in the wake of the crash. “The biggest thing wasn’t the money,” he says now. “It was the fact that I had a pension.” Because of those benefits, he was able to retire this year after 20 years of factory labor. He’s one of the lucky ones. Continue reading The Road Not Taken

GM’s Lordstown Chevy Cruze Plant Closes Amidst Protests

Employees of the General Motors Lordstown Complex were the largest group of workers from a single Ohio employer were displaced by mass layoffs 

It may re-open in the summer. For 1,600 workers, that’s not much comfort at all.

By David Grossman
Mechanics Illustrated

Mar 7, 2019 – General Motors’ Lordstown Assembly plant was in continual operation since 1966 through yesterday, March 6, 2019. The idling of the plant affected 1,600 workers and is the largest of the U.S-based GM four plants that will close this year.

Originally dedicated to iconic cars like the Chevy Impala and Pontiac Firebird, since 2011 the plant built electric Chevy Cruzes. Through the years, the planet built over 16 million cars. However, amidst a restructuring the company decided to discontinue the model in America.

In a press statement, GM said that the Cruze “was a good product and was built with tremendous pride by the Lordstown employees. We know this is an emotional day for our Lordstown team.” Continue reading GM’s Lordstown Chevy Cruze Plant Closes Amidst Protests

Erie, PA: Close To 2,000 Manufacturing Workers Just Went On Strike

After a merger with GE Transportation, the new employer “wants to turn this into an Amazon warehouse,” the union says. ..Bernie Sanders backs strikers

By Dave Jamieson
Huffington Post

Feb 26, 2019 – Nearly 1,700 workers at a GE Transportation plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, went on strike Tuesday, marking the first large-scale work stoppage in the U.S. manufacturing sector in three years.

Union members with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) say the factory’s incoming owner, Pennsylvania-based Wabtec Corp., is trying to impose mandatory overtime, a lower pay scale for new employees, and the use of temporary workers in the facility.

Wabtec just closed an $11 billion deal to merge with GE’s transportation division, which includes the Erie plant where locals have built locomotives for decades.

Workers authorized the union to wage a strike after they failed to secure an interim agreement with Wabtec extending the terms of their contract with GE. As the new employer at the plant, Wabtec is obligated to recognize the union but has the freedom to negotiate its own new contract.

Union members felt they needed to go on strike in order to protect the middle-class wages and high working standards inside the facility, where pay averages around $35 an hour, said Jonathan Kissam, a union spokesman. He added that many workers already volunteer for overtime work but don’t want it to be mandatory, fearing it could ruin weekends with their families.

He also said introducing lower pay for new hires would create a two-tier system inside the plant, causing rifts between different generations of employees.

“This is a multi-generational plant. Some of them, their grandparents worked there,” Kissam said. “So they’re unwilling to sell out their own children.” Continue reading Erie, PA: Close To 2,000 Manufacturing Workers Just Went On Strike

Impact of GM Lordstown Shutdown Will Be Felt for Many Years

 

New Chevy Cruze models at Lordstown 

By Jordyn Grzelewski

The Youngstown Vindicator

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

LORDSTOWN, Dec 2, 2018 – Michelle Ripple has experienced the ups and downs of the General Motors Lordstown plant her entire life.

Her father worked at the plant for more than 40 years; she’s worked there for 18. The 49-year-old mother of three works as a carpet retainer installer.

Like many in the Mahoning Valley, the plant has been an integral part of her family’s history and ability to earn a living. Extended family members have worked there, too, over the years. At family gatherings, these were the people who Ripple could talk to about her work, knowing they would get it.

So when Ripple, of Hubbard, was called into a packed meeting at the plant Monday morning – where workers learned that GM will cease production of the Chevrolet Cruze and indefinitely idle the plant beginning March 1 – the news packed a punch.

“[I was] shocked,” said Ripple. “I just stood there like a mummy, not moving.”

She tried to shield her youngest daughter from the news, but the 14-year-old couldn’t miss the nonstop news coverage or talk at her school.

“She’s very emotional,” said Ripple. Her daughter is worried about what will happen with the family’s finances; Ripple assures her they will survive.

Ripple knows this is true – but that doesn’t mean she knows what to do next. She’s weighing her options as March 1 looms. The uncertainty is hard, for her and other Lordstown workers who shared their stories this week.

But despite the grim news, many expressed hope that this isn’t the end of the plant. They’re staving off that thought, at least for now.

That would be too much.

“I’ll have hope until the very end,” Ripple said.

GM PRIDE

It wasn’t clear at the time, but General Motors came to the Valley at an opportune moment.

The plant’s first car – a Chevy Impala – rolled off the assembly line April 28, 1966. A little more than a decade later, the Valley would be brought to its knees by the collapse of the steel industry.

Over a several-year period, steel mills across the Valley shuttered, beginning with the sudden and devastating closure of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.’s Campbell Works. The announcement came Sept. 19, 1977 – a date now remembered as Black Monday. Just like that, thousands of jobs went up in smoke. Thousands more steel jobs disappeared in the next few years.

But at least the Valley had GM.

“That was all happening from 1977 to 1980, and at the same time, General Motors was expanding,” said Bill Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. “They had opened the plant in 1966. They added a van assembly plant in the 1970s, and a metal fabricating plant after that.

“So just as the dust was starting to settle … you had 12,000 people employed in the Lordstown complex at General Motors. General Motors took on an even greater significance in the local economy,” Lawson said. “I think it’s critical that the plant was there and employing that many people.”

Employment at the plant has dropped since its peak in the 1980s – two years ago, there were about 4,500 workers there. Now, after two shift layoffs, there are about 1,500.

Through it all, the Valley has maintained a sense of pride in the Lordstown complex and the vehicles it produces, from the Impala to the Chevy Cavalier to the Cruze, which the plant started producing in 2010.

“Any time a community has an employer that large that creates products sold throughout the country and even across country boundaries, people identify with that product,” said Lawson. “You see that definitely in terms of brand loyalty for General Motors – not just the autoworkers and their families because of the discounts, but I think other people have bought GM because they considered it an important part of our economy.”

The shutdown of the plant, then, will have an impact beyond job and revenue losses.

“It will affect Trumbull County’s budget quite a bit – and yes, it’s going to have a very negative impact on our perception of ourself and our self-worth, much as [the collapse of the steel industry] did 35 years ago,” Lawson said.

INDIRECT IMPACT

The economic losses, too, will be significant, economists say.

Experts note that beyond the estimated 1,600 workers expected to be impacted at the plant and other local companies GM contracts with, the effect of the shutdown will ripple across other companies in the plant’s supply chain, into other industries and to communities beyond the Valley.

“The main concern is, beyond the 1,600 or so good-paying jobs that will potentially be lost at General Motors Lordstown, are the indirect jobs that will be affected,” said A.J. Sumell, an economics professor at Youngstown State University. “It’s what, in economics, we call the multiplier effect.”

So, how large is that multiplier?

“It’s particularly large with an employer like a car manufacturer, because you don’t have just the indirect jobs in the service industry, like restaurants and hotels and those businesses where the employees at GM Lordstown would have been spending money,” Sumell said. “There’s a greater impact because of all the jobs that are directly dependent on GM Lordstown – the suppliers of GM Lordstown.”

OTHER COMPANIES

Locally, there are several companies that are directly tied to the plant. Lordstown Seating Systems, which makes seats for the Cruze, reported it would lay off 83 employees earlier this year after GM announced it was cutting the Lordstown plant’s second shift.

A company representative declined to comment Friday on the impact of the plant halting production next year.

Jamestown Industries, which supplies the plant with front and rear bumper covers for the Cruze from its plant in Youngstown, said last week that recent attempts at diversification put the company in a better position to weather the idling of the plant.

“In 2015, we started the process to diversify to insulate ourselves from some of the variability that’s in the automotive industry,” said Lawrence Long, vice president of development for Jamestown. “So while there is uncertainty with regard to the Lordstown plant, we are confident that we will make it through this tough time.”

As for potential layoffs at Jamestown’s Youngstown plant, Long said, “We don’t know for sure how it will impact our workforce. We’re working hard to make sure we keep our workforce intact.”

Jose Arroyo, United Steelworkers business representative for this area, was not as optimistic about the future of Comprehensive Logistics/Source Providers in Austintown, which does logistics and warehousing for GM Lordstown.

With the previous layoffs at the plant, Source Providers laid off more than 350 people, Arroyo said; about 180 employees remain.

“Obviously, the prospects aren’t good, considering GM is Comprehensive Logistics’ only customer,” said Arroyo. “As General Motors goes, so goes Comprehensive Logistics [and subsidiaries] Source Providers and Falcon Transport. We’re extremely concerned, and we’re waiting to hear more from the company.”

Arroyo is also hearing concern from other companies whose workers he represents, such as aluminum and steel companies.

“Everybody is kind of holding their breath right now and hoping the talks with General Motors will end up in a new vehicle or retooling of the plant,” he said.

BUSINESS IMPACT

The impact will be felt by small businesses with less direct, but still significant, ties to the plant.

Our Place Diner in Lordstown is owned and operated by a family with deep GM Lordstown ties.

“My dad retired from GM after 30 years. My brother was laid off with the second shift. My husband was laid off with the third shift,” said Jackie Woodward, whose father owns the diner. “We are just like everybody in this town.”

The impact of the plant on their family’s business is significant.

“A lot of the business in this town relies on the traffic from General Motors and the companies that supply General Motors,” Woodward said. “There are not a lot of people who live in this town. So every business in this town relies on this.”

As for what the future holds for Our Place Diner, Woodward said they are taking it one day at a time and holding out hope.

“We have employees who rely on us. There are customers that won’t be impacted by GM, and you hope to stay open for everybody that needs a place to stop and eat,” she said.

As for how this ripple across the local economy will play out, Sumell said it will take years for the full effect to be realized. And as for what that impact will be, he cited research indicating that lost manufacturing jobs result in other job losses.

“Studies on similar situations have suggested that about three additional jobs [for every lost manufacturing job] would be lost over the course of years – which would put the total in the range of 7,000 or 8,000 jobs lost,” he said.

As a percentage of the Valley’s total workforce of about 220,000, that is fairly significant, he said – and he noted that it would accelerate a long-running trend of the Valley’s employment declining each year.

SILVER LINING?

The good news is that the Valley’s economy is more diversified today than it was back in the 1970s when the steel industry went under – and that trend likely will continue.

“We are much more diversified, which is an outcome of a sad situation – but it’s almost a silver lining of a sad situation,” Sumell said. “Because we’ve lost so many jobs in manufacturing already, we have a relative increase in jobs outside of manufacturing, which are generally less susceptible to massive layoffs.”

In the future, it’s more likely that employment will be spread across a variety of companies – for example, a brand-new, state-of-the-art energy center in Lordstown that cost $1 billion to build employs about 20 people, who earn good wages.

“We’ve become so much more automated, within manufacturing, that there is no single, dominant employer or single, dominant industry in most cities,” Sumell said. “The silver lining to that is, if you have [that] instead of just one dominant employer, or one dominant industry in a city, you have, naturally, a more diversified economy.”

He added: “We are in a better position, today, to deal with this type of blow than we were 40 years ago.”

Who that might not benefit is the GM Lordstown workers who are facing layoffs and an uncertain future. For many, it will be a question of retirement or moving or investing time and money into training for a new career. As Sumell notes, that’s often easier said than done.

But if there is any upshot, it may be that the Valley’s past economic woes have prepared it for this moment.

“We have been dealing with economic devastation for the past 40 years in this area,” Sumell said. “There is a sense of resiliency that is naturally built into our fabric in this community. So I’m confident we will be able to not just survive as a community, but to grow and to become a stronger community in the future.”

Continue reading Impact of GM Lordstown Shutdown Will Be Felt for Many Years

Workers Rally to Resist Anti-Union Legislation

carpenters

By Tom Davidson

Beaver County Times

picketsMarch 23, 2017 -BEAVER — About 75 union supporters rallied at noon Thursday in front of the Beaver County Courthouse to rail against legislation they say moves Pennsylvania toward becoming a right-to-work state.

The legislation, Senate Bill 166, is called the Public Employee Protection Act, and it recently passed the state Senate.

"I like to call it ‘paycheck deception,’" is how Steve Kochanowski of Potter Township described the legislation.

He’s on the executive board of the Beaver County Democratic Party and is active with its young Democrats group.

Kochanowski, 32, is looking for a job now and is a former corporate trainer.

He opposed the law because "I believe it’s the first step to trying to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state," he said.

He and other Democratic leaders, along with Beaver County’s labor union leadership, organized the rally to marshal opposition to the law before it passes the state House.

About 75 people turned out for the rally, wielding signs that said things such as "Workers’ Rights are Human Rights" and "Resist Right to Work Legislation."

The legislation would "hurt everybody here," according to Mitch Kates, political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

"We’re having organizing events like this all around the state," Kates said. "We want to help raise awareness."

MayorWalkerThe law would prohibit unions from allowing payroll deductions for union dues that are used for political activities, and it’s a step toward stopping union members "from being able to donate to causes that are dear to your heart," Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker said.

Walker is the son of a union worker and said his father appreciated that union dues were deducted from his paycheck. Otherwise, with other bills to pay, the dues might not get paid, Walker said.

"These are matters of the heart," Walker said. "I stand for workers’ rights. You must resist."

All of the speakers at the rally urged people to call their state legislators to voice opposition to the law.

People who live in so-called right-to-work states, where union power is limited, make less money under worse conditions, Denise Cox of Ohioville said.

She’s an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and said laws like the one proposed "weaken our workforce."

"Government should … let us work together," Cox said. "(The law) is wrong for our future."

She called it "big government’s intrusion into our workplace."

Continue reading Workers Rally to Resist Anti-Union Legislation

Midland Labor Leader Offended by Trump’s Attack on United Steelworkers

Tepsic speaking at ATI strike rally in Midland

By Jared Stonesifer

Beaver County Times

MIDLAND. Dec 9. 2016 –  — Tony Tepsic doesn’t have a Twitter account but, if he did, he would tell Donald Trump just when and where to find him.

Tepsic, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1212 in Midland, took offense to the fact that the president-elect earlier this week attacked a fellow United Steelworkers local president in Indiana.

The feud started when Trump claimed he helped save 1,100 jobs from leaving Indiana. Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999 based in Indianapolis, called Trump a liar and said the real number of jobs saved was around 800.

Trump took to Twitter to fire back, saying Jones has done a “terrible job representing workers” while adding “no wonder companies flee (our) country!”

For Trump, it was just another 15 seconds on Twitter. Jones, however, started receiving anonymous phone calls that threatened his children.

“Nothing that says they’re going to kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones told MSNBC, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve been doing this job for 30 years, and I’ve heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me … I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on.” Continue reading Midland Labor Leader Offended by Trump’s Attack on United Steelworkers