Local 506 Stewards For Their
Job Preservation Efforts
|David Kitchen, Local 506 chief plant steward, was
interviewed in September by a national publication on the unions job
preservation work at the Erie GE plant.
The efforts of Local 506 to make the most of the
job-preservation language in the UE-General Electric National Agreement
received a detailed examination in On the Line, a guide for union
stewards published by the Bureau of National Affairs as a supplement to its Union
On the Line reports that the 200 UE stewards at GEs
Erie 13-building manufacturing complex see in that contract language "the
possibility of building an institutional model for unions fighting for jobs in
a cut-throat corporate environment quick to downsize and outsource unionized
The 1997 contract first opened the door to job preservation
steering committees, giving the union a new forum to argue for job retention
and against outsourcing and transfer of work.
"What we decided between the 1997 and 2000 contracts was
to build our own job preservation committee in response to GEs efforts to
downsize, ship out, and outsource our jobs," David Kitchen, Local
506 chief plant steward, told On the Line.
Local 506 developed an inventory, building by building, skill
by skill, of how the facility operated, detailing the use of personnel, raw
materials, energy, profiles of every process and all production capacities.
So when the UE committee met with its managerial counterpart,
as required by the contract, Kitchen reported, union members were "better
informed than management. We wanted to be better than they were. If there were
ways to do [a job] better, we wanted to come up with ways to do it, rather
"The result," says On the Line, "was a
series of successes starting in 1997 in keeping work within the union. At the
same time, Kitchen said, our efforts had a side effect. We made the company
look much harder at what they were choosing to outsource and farm out. We were
losing far less work and, in fact, bringing work back in to the point that we
could prove that we were more competitive.
Local 506 also led a successful effort to strengthen language
in the contract on job preservation. The new agreement increases the number of
plant-level meetings, and also provides for meetings at the corporate level
between the company and national union leadership.
UE News - 02/01