Wabtec Compensation vs $35 hourly Rates

Are you angry at Wabtec workers who earn $35 per hour? Before you write your letter to the editor, read this.

The Security and Exchange Commission requires compensation disclosure of all public companies. To quote their website: The Summary Compensation Table provides, in a single location, a comprehensive overview of a company’s executive pay practices. It sets out the total compensation paid to the company’s chief executive officer, chief financial officer and three other most highly compensated executive officers for the past three fiscal years. (https://www.sec.gov/fast-answers/answers-execomphtm.html).

Here is the 2018 compensation table for Wabtec:

Wabtec compensation chart

Feel free to peruse the report yourself. (https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/943452/000114036119006593/ntp10000723x1_def14a.htm#tCDA) You may also view how much stock these individuals owned at year end, shareholders who owned more than 5% of Wabtec’s common stock as of March 22, 2019 (GE owns 25%), and a variety of other information.

So why are many residents siding with these executives rather than the $35-per-hour workers?

I believe Corporate America is pitting middle-class workers against each other. (Review the recent ad Wabtec took out in a local paper.)

But my friend, Dr. Nancy Hogan, professor at Ferris State, says it best. “The economy is driven by consumers—you and me—but the rhetoric that corporations are ‘job creators’ brainwashes everyone into 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.”

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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.

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….”

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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.

Why You Should Care About the Wabtec Strike

Why You should Care About the Wabtec Strike

The first in a series of blogs about the Erie, Pennsylvania wage dispute.

If you are a blue-collar manufacturing worker in Erie, you should be concerned about the Wabtec/GE strike. The outcome of this labor dispute may eventually affect you.

Here’s how GE labor relations affected Erie in the past:

My Husband as an Example

Jeff worked as a journeyman toolmaker in Erie at a livable wage for years. When the owners of manufacturing companies in town banded together to control wages and, in some cases, alleviate overtime costs, Jeff’s pay raises and overtime stopped. We had three children in college at the time, so Jeff applied to and accepted a job at GE as a second-shift, press-brake operator in the hope overtime would be available to help pay our mounting college costs.

That year, GE hired hundreds of Erie workers. Smaller Erie manufacturers lost much of their skilled labor to them. In an attempt to keep some employees, those Erie manufacturing companies had to step up their pay increases and benefits. In doing so, they kept some employees from going to GE.

Fast forward a few years. GE is no longer hiring. In fact, they have laid some of those workers off.

Now those same manufacturers have the ability to fall back to their nickel-and-diming ways. So, some did. No need to take the scaling back to prior ways personal. This is Basic Supply and Demand 101.

Webster defines supply and demand as: the amount of goods and services that are available for people to buy compared to the amount of goods and services that people want to buy. If less of a product (workers) than the public (manufacturers) wants is produced, the law of supply and demand says that more can be charged (paid to) for the product (workers).

Hence, if GE attracts more Erie workers by paying them more, there are less workers available to other Erie manufactures and, in essence, they must pay those of you out there not working for GE more.

GE/Wabtec Rates

If the new Wabtec lowers labor rates, employers in our area will follow. Period.

You can debate this issue at length, but if your employer no longer worries about losing you to Wabtec, fight all you want for that cost-of-living wage hike, their backs are no longer against the wall.

Yes, you may have a few great employers who do right by their employees, but manufacturing businesses are currently in the struggle of their lives. If their employees don’t have better employment opportunities in our area, Erie manufacturers no longer have to work as hard to keep them.

Our Area

Here’s a complaint I have about the Erie area.

I worked in Economic and Community Development for years before I retired. An Economic Development leader once complained that GE blue-collar workers were earning six figures. It was a nice spring morning in May, and I asked him how many days he had taken off that year. He said he had only used a few vacation days.

“No, how many days away from the office have you had? Saturdays and Sundays included?”

Well, of course, he may have worked some overtime, but he generally had weekends off.

“My husband has only had three days off in over four months—weekends included. That is the reason he will make six figures this year.”

Economic Development Leaders want a community college? Of course, they do. (Remember the properties of supply and demand?) They want to attract jobs to the Erie area? Of course. And in order to do so Erie needs more skilled labor?

Here’s a tip: stop bashing the skilled workers you do have.

 

Tomorrow: Mandatory Overtime

Email your comments to Cyndie.zahner@gmail.com

 

_____________________________________________    Cyndie Zahner has lived in the Erie community her entire life. She is a retired grant writer/administrator, and now writes fiction novels. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubLinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon. See her BookCircle Online interview at here.

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