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GE Workers From U.S., Canada Tell General Electric: “Commit to Our Communities”

25 April, 2018

Workers and retirees from Erie, PA; Peterborough, ON; and other communities rally, speak at annual shareholders’ meeting outside of Pittsburgh

For more information contact:
Jonathan Kissam, UE Communications Director,
(802) 343 1745 | jkissam@ueunion.org

Workers and retirees from the U.S. and Canada attended General Electric’s annual shareholders’ meeting outside of Pittsburgh this morning, to demand that GE commit to supporting local economies, respecting workers’ rights, and practicing environmental stewardship in the communities where they operate.

“GE’s recent history of poor decision-making is hurting workers, communities, and shareholders,” said UE Local 506 President Scott Slawson, whose local represents workers at GE Transportation in Erie, PA. “Corporate leaders are making one bad move after another. The company’s decisions don’t make financial sense, they wreak havoc with the lives of GE workers and local economies, and they threaten to lead us all over a cliff.”

Janet Gray, who works for GE Transportation in Erie, spoke on the floor of the meeting. “I grew up in Wesleyville, PA, one of the small communities surrounding Erie,” she said. “I fight an internal struggle daily. I went from someone who once had so much loyalty and faith in this company to someone who despises their lack of loyalty to their employees, and their communities.” Gray is the president of UE Local 618, which represents salaried workers at the Erie plant.

“GE workers are the ‘economic stimulators’ of our communities. We buy houses and new cars, we spend our income in the local communities.” added GE Transportation worker and Local 506 Vice President Tom Bobrowicz. “Over the last several years, GE has slashed the workforce in Erie from 3000 to 1500. GE’s workers, the communities where GE operates, and GE’s shareholders are all tied into this mess together. Getting GE on the right course starts with GE making a commitment to their employees and the communities in which they operate.”

The UE members were joined by members of Unifor Locals 524 and 599-O, which represent workers at GE’s plant in Peterborough, Ontario, which GE is in the process of shutting down, leaving behind hundreds of workers who developed cancer from the hazardous working conditions in the plant.

GE has signed the United Nations’ Global Compact to meet fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labor rights, environmental stewardship and good governance. Workers are launching a campaign at GECommitToOurCommunities.org, asking GE to implement those commitments in concrete ways:

  • Commit to the local economies of the communities that have made GE successful. End mass layoffs and plant shutdowns and honor your commitments to retirees.
  • Commit to respect workers’ rights. End the practice of intimidating workers who try to exercise their fundamental right to organize collectively.
  • Commit to environmental stewardship. Where GE has harmed the health of workers, community members or the environment, GE should offer lifetime medical monitoring at no cost to those persons exposed to PCBs and other toxic material, and financial restitution to communities.

The campaign is sponsored by the North American Solidarity Project, a joint campaign of the U.S. union United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) and the Canadian union Unifor. Unifor will be hosting a global meeting of unions representing GE workers in Toronto on May 7 and 8.

Photos of the action are available here.

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