Entirely Justified?

In their own minds, CEOs and economic development leaders in Erie, Pennsylvania are entirely justified. They truly believe Wabtec workers should agree to two-tiered wages, mandatory overtime, reduced vacation, and flexible scheduling for the good of the company—for the good of the city.

But Erie’s little labor dispute is about more than them. It is about more than us—and I mean us in the sense that I am standing on the side of the union. (And I haven’t always done that in the past.)

If you think this is simply a labor dispute in our little town, you are dead wrong. This is about our country’s unions, the protection they provide to the middle class, whether they can continue to be an effective bargaining tool in the future, AND it is about middle-class America, itself.

Every political eye in the country knows us. And whether you know it or not, Erie is making a mark in history.

The political battle

With the number of electoral candidates soaring, you can be sure each and every presidential contender is watching the little Wabtec/UE Local 506 union negotiations. These people want our votes. They want the votes of millions of Americans like us.

But if they want mine, forget political parties and talk to me about the classes. We have rich, middle-class, and poor Republicans and Democrats. What will they do for the middle class?

Every politician says they will help us because they know if they don’t say that, they don’t have a chance in hell of being elected. So do they support organized labor? Yes or no.

There is good and bad to everything. You do not have to support union members who disparage workers entering a plant they strike against. You don’t even have to support strikes that halt production if you feel there are better bargaining tools. But you should  at least support and acknowledge that organized labor helped grow the middle class in the past and without it in the future, the middle class is sure to erode.

Before unions? Middle class workers had less fringe benefits (some had none) and less safety precautions. They worked longer hours for less pay.  Many fell prey to mandatory overtime and flexible schedules.

People say the workers at Wabtec WANT overtime, so what’s the big deal? Agreeing to work overtime to finish a product for your employer is NOT the same as being forced to do it. There is a huge difference.

Mandatory overtime

Gives an employer power over your life.

Flexible scheduling

Gives an employer power over your life.

Two-tier wages

Pushes future Erie middle-class workers down a few rungs of the ladder toward the working poor. Is that better than losing jobs?

I truly don’t know the answer to that.

That is the great debate in our little town. Residents volley opinions on whether or not we should agree to reducing $35 an hour jobs to $20.

But why is no one pointing a finger at top management?

Community support

While I understand opinions across the country vary, I find it hard to understand the jealousy of many middle-class workers within my own community—both blue- and white-collar workers AND Republicans and Democrats.

Nancy L. Hogan Ph.D., a professor at Ferris State University in Michigan, said it best: “The economy is driven by consumers…you and me…but the rhetoric that corporations are ‘job creators’ brainwashes everyone to believing we have to take a pay cut to ‘keep the jobs.’ Show me one CEO who has taken a pay cut to help either the workers or the company. Higher wages from unions raise the wages of non-unions. But the people side with those making 300 +% more than the workers, rather than workers who are a reflection of themselves.”

Dr. Hogan is correct. Middle-class workers are siding with the elite rather than those who are a reflection of themselves.

It never ceases to amaze me how people will defend immigrant’s rights, the rights of the unborn, and the rights of the protected classes, and yet ignore the basic rights of the middle-class worker.

Why aren’t we defending the middle class?

We should stop fighting amongst ourselves, rise up, and insist the rich make concessions.

Why don’t we? The media may be fueling the fire. Read UE Local 506 president Scott Slawson’s words in today’s Erie paper: https://www.goerie.com/news/20190502/wabtec-bosses-future-of-erie-plant-rides-on-2-tier-wages#.

Read Daniel Moore’s March 6, 2019 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Referring to Erie, Moore wrote, “Over the last week, the company and the union escalated the strike’s public relations battle to win support from residents of Lawrence Park, an Erie County town of a few thousand people founded by GE Transportation in 1910.” (https://www.post-gazette.com/business/career-workplace/2019/03/06/Wabtec-GE-union-workers-contract-talks-labor-strike-manufacturing/stories/201903050026)

CEOs and Political leaders are working the media, including social media, to win support for themselves against organized labor.

Is organized labor bad?

For the middle class? No; absolutely not.

For wealthy owners of company’s and political leaders who receive campaign contributions from rich CEOs? (Take a look at past videos of election night celebrations for current political leaders. You may see a few familiar faces.) Absolutely.

Entirely justified?

Is their stand that Erie’s skilled labor should accept concessions justified?

I don’t know what is right or wrong anymore. But I do know one thing. Without labor unions of the past, our middle class would not be as strong as it is today. And in the future? I worry if the rich influence political leaders to break down organized labor, the middle class will erode.

You may not believe this but I often pray about my dumb little blog, and I don’t believe in coincidences.

This morning I finished reading The Great Gatsby. “Entirely justified” comes from its ending: “what he had done was, to him, entirely justified.”

The book is about social tragedy, defiled dreams of Americans, and the total disregard of the rich. The main characters, Tom and Daisy, are figurative. To me they represent the powerful and the wealthy: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made….”

________________________________

Cyndie “CJ” Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Her husband, brother-in-law, and nephew-in-law work at Wabtec. Her brother, Mike Filutze, is a GE retiree. Her father-in-law, Edwin Zahner, was a proud GE employee for thirty-seven years. Follow Cyndie on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubLinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview here.

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Will Wabtec help Erode the Middle Class?

The wealthy are stomping the middle class down to the level of the working poor. That’s how I feel about this entire Wabtec deal. The union is fighting for future Erie workers not simply current employees. And here’s a secret, I’m not exactly an all pro-union person. I get it. Unions aren’t perfect.

But they are at least attempting to keep middle-class jobs in Erie. So for those of you who are bashing the union for not bowing and curtsying in thankfulness to Wabtec for grandfathering current workers in with higher wages and screwing future workers, stop reading. This is my blog and my opinion.

To Wabtec

Even if you stay, and that is a very big if, you are simply offering our city low-income jobs. Period. There may be some employees grandfathered in at higher rates, but eventually, the only people who will be making a good wage on Wabtec products and services are people higher up the Wabtec ladder.

Who will you attract to take a $20 an hour job in a factory where it is sweltering in the summer and freezing in the winter? Once minimum wage increases to $15 an hour (and it eventually will) what kind of a person will take your job over easier jobs?

Mr. Sbrocco, you taunt you’ve offered 150 options to the union. Eh, you’ve merely restated the same offer in 150 different ways. The truth? In order to remain competitive in this world, you want to do so by keeping extremely high wages for upper management and lowering wages for everyone else.

Because, THAT, is corporate America in a nutshell.

To the union

You are more important today than you ever were in the past.

But you are not without error. You can’t support employees who do not deserve to be supported.  You also must not succumb to your own power.  And you must be absolutely open and honest with membership. (Post daily updates even if only a few sentences.)

To those who doubt unions defend middle-class America

Back in the 1950s, my father, Pat Filutze, was fired when his trucking company brought in a new boss. That man fired all of the Italians and African Americans. The Teamsters Union Local 397 stepped in and fought. My father got his job back.

My dad was a hard, hard worker. People eventually asked him to run for president of local 397. He did not feel qualified. He had quit school in eighth grade to help support his brothers and sisters. So instead, he ran for trustee and supported Joe Santone for president. Joe and my father were elected and served together twenty-four years before my father retired from both his full-time, truck-driving position and his part-time trustee position.

My father was far from rich, but he lived a good, decent life because of that union. AND that’s why we need unions. They support decent, living-wage jobs.

To Erie leaders

To the County Executive and Mayor, I like the two of you. You know I do. I’ve worked with both of you. But you can’t sit on your hands and hope this Wabtec problem resolves itself. Economic development is the survival of the fittest.

Instead of visiting China and arguing over a community college, please let the public know what you are doing for economic development in Erie so we can support you. (Have I missed an article on this? I’ve been out of town much in the past two years. Please tell me I have.) A trip to Silicon Valley would make more sense than China. Has anyone met with leaders in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Des Moines, Iowa, Boise, Idaho, or Provo, Utah whose business grew from 2011-2016 (https://www.inc.com/business-insider/35-up-and-coming-cities-with-job-opportunities.html.) (Anyone know of other northern cities surviving the erosion of the middle class? Please post articles in the comments below.)

You hired someone at the Chamber who purported to increase jobs and capital in another American city. “According to the chamber, Grunke has a track record of achievement. During his tenure with the Missoula Economic Partnership, the region added 10,000 new jobs and attracted nearly $1 billion in capital investment.” https://www.goerie.com/news/20180810/erie-chamber-names-new-ceo#

Were those low-income jobs?

“Bozeman and Missoula have fared well in terms of overall job growth, but their typical wages are actually below the state average — $35,900 in Bozeman and $35,500 in Missoula (including Ravalli County).” https://www.missoulacurrent.com/business/2018/11/montana-jobs/

We do not need more low-income jobs. We need decent, living-wage jobs.

(Somebody PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong about this. I truly want to be wrong. If you find a better article, please post the link in the comments below. I WANT better news.)

The “don’t-go-there” line

There is a line between the rich and poor that I refer to as the “don’t-go-there” line. I call it that because nobody wants to talk about it.

The concept is simple really. The people above the line have no income problems, and the people below the line can barely make ends meet. Some can’t at all.

Here’s the greedy secret:  The people above the line WANT to keep the people below the line right where they are. In fact, they want to push more people below that line because it means more for them. They also spend their entire lives pulling their own kids and friends and friend’s kids above the line.

My advice to anyone still reading is do everything you can to get your kids above that line because the eroding of the middle class is happening. With right-to-work states, the fall of unions, political bailouts, CEO bonuses, and make-America-great-again profiteers, our middle-class kids are in for the struggle of their lives.  My husband and I tugged and pulled and broke our backs to get our kids above that line. I hope you will, too.

Oh, and by the way, all three of our kids had to move out of Erie to break into that top half of the “don’t-go-there” line. Go figure.

______________________________________

Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Her husband, brother-in-law, and nephew-in-law work at Wabtec. Her brother, Mike Filutze, is a GE retiree. Her father-in-law, Edwin Zahner, was a proud GE employee for thirty-seven years. Follow Cyndie on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubLinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview here.

 

 

 

 

Support the Girls!

Female business owner, Tracey Bowes, decided to invite three female authors to Pressed Book’s first local author event. How cool is that?

I am a miniscule drop in a bucket of authors but a very lucky drop. I received unremitting support from countless people in my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. I love Erie.

Writing novels has been my dream since childhood, so when my first book, The Suicide Gene, was picked up by  The Wild Rose Press, I was elated. My husband threw me a release party, my daughter did a video, and friends and family celebrated with chocolate, cake and wine! Two books later, I’m working ten-to-twelve-hour days writing and loving life. What’s not so fun, is the marketing. But…

Erie

But my hometown has made this nasty chore much easier.

Thank you Erie readers for purchasing my books, sharing my posts, and shouting from the mountain tops that I am an author. I feel blessed to have you in my life.Release day friends in front of sign

I’m sure I speak for fellow authors Rebecca Kightlinger and Laura Weber, too, when I say we are all blessed to have you in our lives. We cannot possibly mention all of the people, both men and women who have supported our dreams. Simple words don’t seem thanks enough.

Thanks to my family

Thank you Jeff for supporting me relentlessly and for pulling off my surprise release party. Thank you Jessie for spending an entire night awake obtaining, cutting, and piecing together a release-day tribute video of my family and friends. Thank you Zak, Release day cake outsideJilly, and all of my friends who sent videos to Jessie so I have a lifelong reminder of how many supportive people I have in my life. Love all of you!

Thanks to the men

Guys, some of you have been relentless in your support of, not just female authors, but women in business. I’m proud to know you.

This morning I woke up to a blog by local author, Jim Dehavern, encouraging his readers to support us. (Take a read! Jim Dehavern’s blog.) Thanks Jim!

Thanks to our sisters

Come see us this Thursday at Pressed Books, girls. Rebecca, Laura, and I will be selling and signing books. Even if you aren’t into reading, stop by for a cup of coffee and support Tracey. If you’ve never been to Pressed Books, you are in for a surprise. Bring your little ones. They have a great kid’s room.Pressed books layla and Jessie

Make this your night, too. If you aren’t interested in our books, pick up a Jodi Picoult, Gillian Flynn, or Michelle Obama novel. Stop next door for a bag of Pop Luck. Go home. Put your feet up. Relax and read a book. It’s ladies’ night.

Read on!
_________________________________________                       Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Follow Cyndie on n InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubLinkedIn and purchase her books at Pressed Books, 1535 West 8th Street, or on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview at here.

Support Erie & Have a Merry Read!

Need a last minute gift under $20? $15? How about under $4. Support your Erie Community. Stop at a local book store! Like Pressed Books.

Of course, I’d love you to buy my novels, but if you aren’t into thrillers, check out other Erie authors that Pressed flaunts. And bring your kids. They have a lovely reading area for children.

The last time I stepped into Pressed’s checkout line, three little girls and their mother were queued up in front of me. Each of the girls had their own money and paid for the books they purchased individually. The checkout was a slow process. Stepping up to a Pressed Bookscounter that towers over you alone took some time, not to mention counting dollar bills out, and change, too!

Annoyed? No way. I loved watching.

There is something about a book in hand in a child that sends a chill through me. The girls were excited for their purchase and so was I. So much so, that if any grandparents have grandchildren they need a last minute item for, I suggest they buy a big box and put a gift card to a local bookstore inside. Then take them after Christmas. Trust me–this gift is more for you than them.Pressed for kids.JPEG

And while you’re picking up those gift cards, can I interest you in The Suicide Gene under $20, Dream Wide Awake, under $15? (If you are more a kindle reader, they are available on Amazon at here  for under $3 & $6). Another author’s book?Or you may take a few moments to relax during the busy season for a great cup of coffee at Pressed, stop in at Pop Luck for some popcorn, or run over to Romolo’s for a shot of caffeine to keep you going.

Have yourself a Merry Read this Christmas!

_________________________________________                            Cyndie Zahner is the author of Dream Wide Awake, a paranormal novel that is totally fiction, but has been inspired by her own experiences. This is the first in a series of blogs about her inspiration behind the novel. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubLinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon.