Altoona rally backs locked-out utility workers

ALTOONA, Pa. (PAI) – Approximately 400 unionists and their allies rallied Feb. 1 in Altoona, Pa., to back the cause of 140 Utility Workers whom Penelec, a Pennsylvania utility that First Energy Corp. owns, has locked out for nine weeks.

The show of support heartened the members of Utility Workers Local 102, who have manned a constant picket line, defying both Penelec and subzero temperatures, since Nov. 25.

Penelec locked out the workers in Altoona, Huntingdon, Lewiston and Shippensburg after they voted down its “last, best and final” contract offer because it trashed their pension plan – replacing it with a 401(k) – and ended retiree health care. Both sides said there was no movement in the last bargaining session, on Jan. 14.

“This is awesome,” Local 102 President Ben Wilkinson told the crowd. “The solidarity in the city, in this area, is tremendous. And we’re all sticking together. You have no idea what it means to myself and all our members who are standing out there.”

Support came from leaders of AFSCME Council 83, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Fire Fighters and the Altoona Area Education Association. 

Photo: Utility Workers of America Facebook page.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.