On August 27, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 6 issued a complaint against General Electric, charging that the company is unlawfully removing union work away from UE Local 618 members in its Erie, Pennsylvania plant, and with discriminating against employees because of their membership in their union. NLRB Region 6 has also rejected GE’s claims that its Fort Worth, Texas locomotive plant is not a GE facility. The NLRB concluded that GE and “GE Manufacturing Solutions” (GEMS), the name under which it operates the Ft. Worth plant, “constitute a single-integrated business enterprise and a single employer under the meaning of the (National Labor Relations) Act.”
The unfair labor practice charge was initially filed with the NLRB by Local 618, the salaried clerical and technical workers local in Erie. For decades, GE has utilized UE Local 618 lab assistants to test prototypes of locomotives and other products manufactured in GE’s transportation division plants around the world. But since early in 2015, GE has refused to offer strain gauge testing work in its Ft. Worth plant to its lab assistant employees. By longstanding local agreement, such work must first be offered to Local 618 lab assistants, and NLRB Region 6 found that GE violated union agreements and federal labor law by denying this work to union members, specifically Local 618 President Mike Divins. The NLRB also says GE broke the law when it “unreasonably delayed” providing the union with information which the union requested and was legally entitled to regarding this matter.
The Erie site is GE’s main North American plant manufacturing locomotives and off-highway vehicle (OHV) motorized wheels, and workers there have been represented by UE Locals 506 and 618 since the 1940s. GE’s Ft. Worth plant first began manufacturing OHV wheels in 2012 and locomotives in 2013. The Texas plant is non-union, but UE has been working with Ft. Worth employees to organize that facility. The union believes that GE is refusing to let Local 618 technicians work in Ft. Worth because it desperately wants to keep the union out of that plant.
In regard to GE’s identity crisis, the union has encountered other instances in which the company falsely claimed that its wholly-owned subsidiaries operating under the GE name are independent operations. UE International Representative Gene Elk said, “In 2012 we ran a union organizing campaign with workers at a GE energy plant in Houston. GE made the bogus argument that the plant was not really GE, even though everything about the plant, from the sign out front to the logos on workers’ uniforms, said GE.” Elk says GE’s motive for this deception is to evade the terms of the GE-UE National Agreement which requires that new units of workers who vote to join UE are automatically covered under that contract. “So we are increasingly witnessing the charade in which GE tells its own employees that their operation is not really GE, and they aren’t really GE workers.”
“In the Ft. Worth case,” Elk continued, “the NLRB has rejected the company’s fiction and found that GE and its wholly-owned Texas affiliate are ‘one single-integrated business,’ with common officers, management, labor policies, and facilities, even when the company adds a few more letters after the initials GE.”
NLRB Region 6 has scheduled a hearing on this case on November 3, 2015 in the Federal Courthouse in Erie.