Socialist Revolution received this report from the picket line in Erie by J.R. Larsen. Brother Larsen is a retired maintenance worker at an industrial laundry and former member of United Steelworkers Local 3199. Buddy Beck is a former member of UE Local 610; he also contributed to this report.
On Monday August 21, I attended a union rally in my hometown of Erie, PA. UE Locals 506 and 618 have been on strike since June 22 against the Wabtec Corporation. Railroad locomotives are built at this facility.
Close to 1,000 UE workers, their neighbors, members of other labor unions, community organizations and elected officials rallied to show their solidarity with these workers. Speakers demanded a contract that would provide a sustainable living wage for the 1,400 Union workers.
Chants of “Who are we, U.E!” and “One day longer, One day stronger!” broke out repeatedly throughout the rally. I was pleasantly surprised to see the fighting spirit, high morale and camaraderie of the strikers and their supporters. Numerous area unions had speakers that expressed their solidarity with their class brothers and sisters. Even after two months of walking the picket line in the middle of summer, these workers know that they are in a desperate struggle. These workers are often walking in 90-degree heat with very high humidity and terrible air quality from the wildfires in Canada. Sometimes they walk the picket line in a horrible downpour. They know they are in a real fight and they are not giving up!
I felt such an immense sense of pride, standing next to, and with these, brothers, and sisters of UE 506 and 618. There were also a number of Erie City, and Erie County politicians, including US Senator John Fetterman (D-PA), offering their verbal support, for whatever that is worth. Pennsylvania is a swing state and Erie will be an important city in the coming presidential elections, so we are not surprised by their electioneering. Regardless of their speeches, we know from experience that workers should not depend on either the Democrats or the Republicans to help them in this fight. These parties support the capitalist system and they are run by the class who own companies like Wabtec.
UE Local officers told the rally that some progress has been made in negotiations and more sessions are scheduled for this week. Union workers hope something will come out of these talks, but have a wait-and-see attitude. They have shown by their militancy that they aren’t going to settle for just anything.
I want to stress the importance that this industrial conflict isn’t just about Wabtec and UE 506 and 618 coming to some sort of amicable agreement. This is about every single working-class person in this country, and across the globe having the freedom to stand in solidarity against corporate greed to win a better quality of life.
This wasn’t just a crowd of angry people frustrated by the circumstances that they find themselves in. This was a gathering of workers, who quite frankly, just wanted to be recognized and rewarded for their blood, sweat, and tears.
Let’s face it; the vast wealth that surrounds us is the result of the labor of the workers in this world, not Wall Street and their political brokers, and certainly not the shareholders. Solidarity is among the most important weapons at our disposal. A win for Locals UE 506 and 618 is a win for all!
Solidarity messages and financial support are being received at the union hall: UE Local 506, 3923 Main St. Lawrence Park, Pa. 16511.