VIDEO: National Coalition at GE Stakeholder Meeting – GE Must Abandon Failed Strategy and Reinvest in American Manufacturing

Monday, May 2, 2022

Greenpeace USA, Senators Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, and leaders from the U.S. military and national labor unions sound alarm on GE practices weakening manufacturing divisions and undermining GE leadership in renewable energy, aviation, and defense

BOSTON, MA — Today, the first General Electric Annual Stakeholders Meeting was held by the national Coalition for Sustainable and Secure Energy and Aviation Manufacturing. Speakers at the event included U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, and U.S. Senator Ed Markey; leaders from Greenpeace USA; U.S. military; and national labor unions, academic experts, and GE employees from across the country. Together, the coalition urged GE to reinvest in U.S. manufacturing operations to fix domestic supply chain problems and strengthen its renewable energy and defense aviation divisions. Click here for the full event video.

With GE’s Annual Shareholder Meeting later this week, today’s event featured a call for the approval of Shareholder Proposal No. 3 for the nomination of an employee representative to serve on the Board of Directors. Since Trian hedge fund took a minority stake and active role in GE in 2015, the company has spent tens of billions of dollars on stock buybacks, sold off entire business divisions, cut 12,000 jobs, and seen its stock price drop more than 53 percent.

Coalition leaders highlighted the urgency of having a non-executive worker voice on GE’s board as its $2.5 billion plan to break up the company advances. Financial experts forecast that private equity buyers will rapidly carve up GE after the initial split, underscoring the uncertain future that GE workers and many other stakeholders now face.

Today’s stakeholder event sent a clear message that GE must focus on the fundamentals like the U.S. manufacturing operations vital to its long-term success, commit to building a sustainable domestic supply chain, and halting job cuts to American manufacturing plants. This is key to GE’s role as a leader advancing the green energy transition with wind turbines made and installed here in the U.S. and supporting U.S. troops with vital military aviation equipment.

IUE-CWA President Carl Kennebrew: “GE management is spending $2.5 billion to break up the company into three pieces and $3 billion on new stock buybacks. This is the wrong direction. We’re calling on GE to put the industrial future of America first, with a bold $5 billion investment in its U.S. manufacturing and an end to its offshoring and outsourcing, letting workers have a seat on the Board of Directors, and letting shareholders vote on the planned break-up. GE workers are preparing for 2023 contract negotiations, and company executives should answer our call for a fair contract that protects good-paying union jobs and invests in our communities.”

CWA President Chris Shelton: “Driven by Wall Street, General Electric is about to spend $2.5 billion to break up the company and $3 billion on new stock buybacks. That’s $5.5 billion that is going to bankers and lawyers and middlemen instead of updating and expanding manufacturing facilities, paying good union wages, and making sure we are not dependent on other countries for the critical components of our green energy supply chain. IUE-CWA members are ready and eager to be part of the revitalization of American manufacturing. It’s time for GE to step up.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY): “GE union workers have done so much to build amazing products powering the world’s economy and make GE a legendary company. Clean tech like wind turbines needs to be made in America, and I’m proud to work with IUE-CWA to make green manufacturing happen in New York again, all with federal dollars that go for union jobs only. I recently secured $29 million to make the Port of Albany a wind manufacturing hub that would make it possible for GE and other companies to manufacture turbines in Upstate New York. We need big investment to deploy our renewable energy opportunities like offshore wind and I want to make sure that all of that is done with union labor.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): “As GE workers and other stakeholders meet ahead of GE’s annual shareholder meeting, this is an opportunity for GE to show its commitment to American jobs. This stakeholder meeting is a chance for GE workers and management to focus on the need to bring jobs back to the United States, to reinvest in domestic manufacturing, and build secure and sustainable energy and aviation supply chains, including offshore wind. As new opportunities arise in clean energy and in building new and more robust supply chains, GE can create American jobs, bring manufacturing back to American communities, and keep growing their business, all at the same time. GE is paid hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars every year, which funds its defense, aviation, and energy business, and GE must continue to reinvest these dollars back into American workers and the American economy.”

GE Worker Christian Gonzalez (New York): “We at GE Schenectady want to become the next generation of workers that build the green energy economy. We have built steam turbines and generators for generations, and we’re ready to build the machines that will power our future. Schenectady was nicknamed ‘Electric City’ back in the early 1900s, and we’re calling on GE to reinvest in the workers that created the last electric renaissance so that we can do it again. GE Schenectady is ready, bring our work home.”

Greenpeace USA Chief Program Officer Tefere Gebre: “GE ushered in the electric era more than one hundred years ago, but today it has lost its way. With over 3 million supporters, Greenpeace USA speaks for Americans across the country whose taxpayer dollars are supporting companies like GE that have a huge impact on the just transition to the green economy that we need. GE needs to step up now for a just transition to build the next generation of green manufacturing right here in the United States with offshore wind production. As we see climate change and its destructive effects growing worse by the day, it’s clear that we need companies like GE to act now.”

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA): “I am proud to stand with IUE-CWA in the fight to make good-paying union jobs a centerpiece of the clean energy revolution in the United States. General Electric must halt its offshoring of work for the United States and reinvest in its U.S. facilities. It is time for GE to bet big on its workers and restore to U.S. facilities the production work that GE has offshored in recent decades. I introduced the Offshore Wind American Manufacturing Act to help us build a robust offshore wind supply chain, build up our union workforce, and build our clean energy future. There are hundreds of millions of dollars of investments at the ready. We need Congress to signal that the United States is all in on a long-term future with offshore wind by passing the legislation. GE union workers must be the foundation of our nation’s green energy future. It’s time for GE to harness this once-in-a-generation opportunity by fully investing in its U.S. facilities, including in Massachusetts, so that we can lead the globe in the green manufacturing economy.”

Carl Pope, U.N. Envoy for Climate Senior Advisor, former Sierra Club CEO: “General Electric has taken the manufacturing part of its business and tried to move it overseas, and it’s not working. GE’s electric network connects Americans from the moment a GE turbine is hit by a wind gust to the moment a GE-powered electric vehicle carries passengers on the road. But all of those links are suffering from a failure of companies like GE to invest in the United States and this has led to a loss of good union manufacturing jobs. GE’s wind turbine business is being threatened by the Chinese because China has a vibrant home market they are investing in by creating jobs. It would be truly tragic if General Electric was to miss the opportunity to rescue its own bottom line, and America’s well-being, by not betting again on American manufacturing.”

U.S. Army Brigadier General (Ret.) John Adams: “When defense contractors like General Electric wipe out good jobs in our communities by offshoring U.S. military manufacturing, it compromises our ability to respond quickly in a crisis. GE has received billions of dollars in contracts and subsidies from the U.S. government over the past several years. Our taxpayer dollars should be spent as they're meant to be spent for the benefit of our country. As a military officer, our country and our national security are everything to me. The hundreds of thousands of American workers in our defense industry are a crucial part of our military readiness and strength. It's time for GE to reinvest in U.S. manufacturing and bring American jobs back home.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH): “Decades of bad trade and tax policy have sent good-paying union jobs in communities like Bucyrus and Logan overseas, and they haven’t been replaced by the manufacturing careers workers were promised. America invented the lightbulb, yet today 99 percent of LED bulbs are made in China. We need to make more in America – and Ohio IUE-CWA workers are ready to carry on our state’s proud manufacturing heritage.”

GE Lighting Worker Will Evans (Ohio): “Our GE Lighting facility in Bucyrus, Ohio, has generations of GE workers represented within its walls. But a few years ago, GE sold our plant, leaving us out in the cold. Our work has been shipped to China, and soon the plant doors will be closing. Now, GE is announcing it is splitting up, putting even more American jobs in jeopardy. I am here to fight alongside GE workers to demand a better future for American manufacturing. GE should reinvest in its workers, not keep splitting itself up till there is nothing left of this company.”

Academic-Industry Research Network President Dr. William Lazonick: “With massive distributions to shareholders in the form of cash dividends and stock buybacks through 2017, GE’s senior executives and their board of directors almost destroyed one of America’s iconic technology companies. They put the pursuit of high stock yields for parasitic shareholders ahead of rewards to the company’s employees for their productive contributions. The purpose of a business corporation is to produce high-quality products at low unit costs, and to do that it must, first and foremost, invest in and reward its labor force – the ultimate value creators.”

IUE-CWA Local 81201 Retiree Alex Brown (Massachusetts): “GE needs someone on the Board that cares about the products, knows what it takes to make them, and is invested in the long-term success of the company. A worker director would have interests more aligned with long-term shareholders over a director whose career has been focused on short-term value extraction. This perspective is especially needed as the Company seeks to spend nearly $2.5 billion to split itself up. It’s time for workers to have a seat at the table at GE.”

UMass Boston Professor, Dr. Nick Juravich, co-author of Building a Sustainable Future for GE: “American workers and communities whose taxes bankroll GE deserve stable, sustainable investment from GE in return, not more of the same disinvestment that has decimated GE’s workforce in this country for the past 50 years. Our report makes clear that GE’s U.S. manufacturing facilities are ideally positioned to deliver next-generation, green power and aviation products right here at home, but that won’t happen unless GE executives abandon their short-term thinking. As long as GE continues to accept millions in American taxpayer dollars, Congress must create real accountability to mandate that those funds lead to reinvestment in GE's U.S. workforce and the factories that have helped the Company succeed for generations.”

Click here for full video from today’s event.

BACKGROUND:

Today’s GE stakeholder event marks the latest call for action by the Coalition for Sustainable and Secure Energy and Aviation Manufacturing. The coalition first launched in September 2021 and its call for GE to strengthen its investment in U.S. manufacturing vital to wind energy production and military aviation has been featured in TIME, Fortune, and The Guardian. Congressional leaders like Senator Elizabeth Warren have joined the call of the coalition to reinvest in U.S. manufacturing and the high-skilled workforce at the heart of the company’s success.

In February 2022, workers demonstrated at GE national HQ in Boston, protesting GE’s $2.5 billion plan to break up the company and announced four priorities for the company that are vital to the success of its U.S. operations and will directly strengthen GE’s wind energy and military aviation divisions that today’s stakeholder event put front and center:

  • Invest at least $5 billion over the next 5 years and add 35,000 jobs to existing and recently shuttered U.S. facilities
  • Reshore all U.S. military aviation production and 70% of GE industrial work offshored over the past 5 years
  • Let shareholders vote on the proposed breakup of GE and add elected worker representatives to the GE Board of Directors
  • Convert historic GE facilities into multi-modal, brilliant factories with supplier parks to minimize supply chain disruptions, building an American offshore wind supply chain on our shores.

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