Growing up in Lynn, I remember driving by the General Electric (GE) plant, seeing hundreds of cars in the parking lot, and thinking that those workers were making essential products that Americans depended upon, including our military.
I have worked as a union machinist since 2008 at GE in Lynn, where we make components and jet engines for United States military helicopters and aircraft. Homeland security matters to me, as does keeping my community healthy and financially thriving. We are a city that takes pride in our long history of manufacturing, which includes generations of Lynn workers producing a wide range of high-tech products for General Electric.
GE recently announced that the company will divide itself into three separate, public divisions. CEO Larry Culp stated that “each can benefit from greater focus, tailored capital allocation, and strategic flexibility to drive long-term growth and value for customers, investors, and employees.”
GE Schenectady workers have already made it clear to GE that what they will benefit from is investment: investment into our workforce, our hallowed plants, good-paying union jobs, and the green technologies of the future.
In the 1980s, there were 15,000 hourly union workers here. Today, we have less than 1,200.
My coworkers and I have watched in dismay as our work has been slowly outsourced and offshored year after year. We’ve seen how these decisions have impacted the community, with thousands of good-paying union jobs shipped out, buildings torn down, and entire sections of the plant shuttered.
We have agreed to wage concessions just to watch our numbers shrink, while GE invests in state-of-the-art facilities and purchases innovative new equipment for plants abroad with little to no investment here at home.
There is no doubt that recessions, the pandemic, global economic turmoil, and other factors have posed huge challenges for GE. But rather than innovate and invest here in the U.S., GE has recently closed plants in Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Arkansas, and South Dakota, decimating blue-collar communities, destroying local economies, and shipping military manufacturing jobs to other countries.
When it comes to defense contractors, GE remains one of the largest in the world. GE has benefitted mightily from taxpayer bailouts and government contracts. Yet it has continued to move our jobs overseas and to non-union facilities, shutter plants in communities like ours, break promises to retirees, downsize domestic manufacturing, and implement other cuts that have irreparably harmed American workers. The company slashed its U.S. workforce by 47 percent in just the past three years.
Offshoring production of high-tech military parts also carries potential security risks, as we continue to rely on other countries to manufacture parts of our military machinery. Not to mention the environmental risks.
GE Aviation committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, but how do they plan to accomplish that with their ever-growing global supply chain?
If we are to recover and rebuild our communities from the pandemic, we must support robust and innovative production at GE plants and protect good union jobs that provide American families with the opportunity and stability we deserve.
GE is an industry leader and if it intends to maintain that status, the company must modernize and re-invest in its historic manufacturing sites here at home, not close plants and ship jobs overseas.
Anything less is a betrayal to American workers that will deal a crippling blow to communities like mine that are fighting harder than ever.
Nefty Alvarez is a 13-year General Electric employee in Lynn and member of International Union of Electrical Workers/Communication Workers of America Local Local 81201.