GE Transportation plans to end most locomotive production at its century-old plant in northwestern Pennsylvania, eliminating about 575 jobs.
The work is being transferred by the end of 2018 to Fort Worth.
“This move is necessary to drive efficiency, better compete in the increasingly competitive global rail market, and preserve U.S. jobs,” GE said in a statement.
Earlier this year, GE announced it was cutting 250 positions at its Fort Worth plant, where workers aren’t unionized.
About 225 employees at the Fort Worth plant would be recalled, and as many as 200 other jobs would be created at GE suppliers around the country, Simpson said.
“If the proposed transfer of work to Fort Worth is approved, this will be terrific news for our region, for the employees who may be recalled, and for potential employees yet to be hired,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
“GE is one of the most admired companies in the world, and we would be proud to become the global home to their locomotive manufacturing facility,” he said.
Thornton noted that rail is a legacy industry that helped build Fort Worth 145 years ago.
“GE’s proposed locomotive manufacturing relocation is another testament to the Texas business climate of low taxes and reasonable regulations, and a youthful and skilled workforce,” he said.
The Fort Worth plant currently employs more than 600 workers, according to a plant spokesman. The plant opened in 2012 and delivered its first locomotive in 2013. It has built more than 1,400 locomotives, modifications and kits since it opened.
The Lawrence Park Township plant, just outside Erie, currently employs more than 2,500 workers, and locomotive prototypes will still be produced at the site, which is GE Transportation’s largest plant.
Richard Simpson, a GE Transportation executive, told GoErie.com the company has to put work at its most competitive location, which doesn’t include Erie.
“While we have made progress in Erie, it still isn’t as competitive,” Simpson said.
Scott Slawson, the president of the Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, calls the cuts “union busting” and says the company simply wants to pay the lowest wages possible.
Texas is a right-to-work state, and Slawson contends the Fort Worth workers earn a low wage and “have zero loyalty to GE.”
He said the union has 10 days to decide if they will go into “decision bargaining” with the company, but he doesn’t hold out much hope for any substantive changes.
“Erie has been dealt a lot of blows over the years,” he said. “I don’t know how many times a community can be kicked.” – Robert Francis and Linda Kessler of the FWBP contributed to this report.