March 2012

Kansas City GE Workers Vote IBEW
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Workers who rebuild railroad traction motors at General Electric Transportation are celebrating a Jan. 27 vote in favor of representation by Kansas City, Mo., Local 1464.

GE will not contest the results of the election, giving members of the newest bargaining unit at the massive company — which employs 1,600 IBEW members in other plants — hope that a mutually beneficial first contract will be negotiated soon.

A flier circulated during the campaign plainly stated the goals of the volunteer organizing committee that led the third campaign in four years to unionize the workplace. "We sign agreements and contracts throughout our lives [on houses, cars etc.] That's being smart by protecting yourself if the agreement is not lived up to," said the committee.

International President Edwin D. Hill says, "The IBEW has a very productive bargaining relationship with GE as a participant in a coordinated bargaining council consisting of 14 different unions. The union has worked with the company to bring offshored production back home, like refrigerators that are produced by members of Bloomington, Ind., Local 2249."

Hill says, "The IBEW is ready to pivot from an organizing mode to a mutually-beneficial negotiation on a contract that provides more security for our members while simultaneously improving the transportation division's competitive position."

Lead Membership Development Organizer Mike Knox says the 44 to 41 vote organizing win was the product of powerful teamwork among the plant's workers and a merger of local union and International resources.

IBEW organizers were called back to the plant soon after the December 2010 IBEW campaign lost. Prior campaigns by the Teamsters and the UAW also failed. A letter to co-workers from the volunteer organizing committee stated: "This facility has been here three years and gone through numerous plant managers, human resource managers and others. The only constant here is those of us who built this place and continue to keep our customers happy."

Jim Wasserman, a heavy-frame repairman, has worked at GE Transportation for a year and a half. A volunteer organizing committee member, Wasserman says, "GE Transportation's motors are at work on thousands of rail cars across the country. This plant is profitable and productive, but it needs a fresh start. I think this is a new day for us if we stay positive and make our relationship work better."

IBEW organizers invited members of railroad locals who work with GE motors to organizing meetings. Says Knox, "It was a big help knowing they were there to speak the language of the trade and talk about the market for GE Transportation's product, the rebuilt motors that members of our bargaining unit send back to the field ready to run."

In a conversation with the plant's manager, Local 1464 Business Manager Darrell McCubbins said the IBEW's goal is to provide a structure for a better relationship between the parties and put union stewards in place to strive for safety while keeping the plant productive.

"It was positive to see the group work so hard to become unionized and watch their faces when they found out they won," says McCubbins. He asked union supporters not to gloat over the win with co-workers who opposed the drive, but to continue safe, high-quality work. Production improved the week after the win, says McCubbins.

IBEW Director of Manufacturing Randy Middleton praises the teamwork that led to the organizing win. He says talks will be initiated between the union and GE about placing the newly organized unit under the umbrella of the coordinated bargaining council.

Celebrating the victory at GE are organizer Mike Knox, left, with Kansas City, Mo., Local 1464 Business Manager Darrell L. McCubbins and Assistant Business Manager Mike Baker.