The two-day national strike against the General Electric Company has been "an impressive display of solidarity and resolve," according to UE-GE Conference Board Secretary Steve Tormey. Reporting from GE’s giant Locomotive works in Erie, Pa., Tormey said "everything’s shut down tight, there are no scabs."
Some 20,000 union workers employed by GE are engaged in a fight to protect their health insurance benefits, responding to the Company’s decision to impose substantially higher co-pays under its Health Care Preferred (HCP) medical plan. Despite being on track to report record earnings of over $15 billion in 2002, GE implemented its latest round of health care cost-shifting on January 1st. The Company has made it clear it will seek further health-care cost-shifting during national negotiations in June.
"The response by the UE membership has been outstanding," said UE General President John Hovis. "I hope GE is getting this message. If they aren’t, they should be," he adds.
The UE strike, the first national strike action against GE since the 102-day strike of 1969-70, involves 5,000 UE-GE workers in 16 different bargaining units in several states. The UE was joined by the IUE/CWA, the only other union holding a national contract with GE.
Business executives and the national media are paying close attention to this strike because the rising cost of health care has become a major issue for business as well as unions and workers. The GE strike could be "an alarm for companies across the U.S.," reported Forbes.com on its website in an article posted Tuesday. www.forbes.com/home/2003/01/14/cx_mh_0114ge.html
U.S. Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) joined UE Local 1010 strikers on the picket line at GE’s aricraft maintenance facility in Ontario, Calif., yesterday to underscore the imporance of the strike. In Erie, the home of UE Local 506, Tormey says "everybody’s out and nobody’s working" the same situation he found Tuesday as he visited UE’s GE locals in Conneaut and Niles, Ohio.
On the "GE Workers United" website (www.geworkersunited.org/ ), the IUE/CWA reported its members had all of their GE workplaces "Shut Down as Tight as a Drum."
The UE-GE Conference Board, comprising delegates from the union’s GE locals, unanimously called for strike action in a resolution passed at its meeting in December. The resolution stated that the co-pay increases constitute an “unprecedented mid-contract attack,’ and noted that GE’s action represents a transfer of about $30 million in annual medical costs to affected employees and pre-65 retirees by the Company. This comes at a time when GE is not only on track to report record earnings in 2002, but is predicting double-digit profit increases for 2003 in 11 of its 13 major businesses.