GE Aviation Workers Demand That Inactive Plants Begin Manufacturing Respirators

Illustration for article titled GE Aviation Workers Require Inactive Plants to Manufacture Respirators

Statue: GE employees in Lynn, MA (Communications workers of America)

Today, workers at the aviation factory for General Electric organized two protests in Massachusetts, demanding that the company reconfigure its aircraft manufacturing facilities to make fans. Last week, General Electric Aviation announced that it would fire a large part of its staff, while civil servants and medical workers have calls the federal government to pressure manufacturing companies like GE to step up and produce fans because they are forced to fight over the limited supply.

“The workers fear the future because of the layoffs,” a spokesman for IUE-CWA, the union representing GE’s aviation personnel, told Gizmodo. “Obtaining the overcapacity in the GE facilities set up for the production of fans would help avoid layoffs and allow workers to use their skills to tackle the COVID-19 crisis by producing much needed equipment . “

Employees were six feet apart from a factory in Lynn, Massachusetts and GE’s Boston headquarters, with signs to traffic. (The Lynn site is currently open, but has no capacity.) While GE Healthcare already manufactures breathing equipment – and according to a press release, has doubled its fan production capacity since the Covid-19 outbreak – GE Aviation announced it would lay off 10 percent of its U.S. workers (approximately 2,600 people) and temporarily fire 50 percent of its maintenance, repair and overhaul personnel for 90 days.

In a press call This afternoon, several union officials spoke of GE’s massive factory floors, which had been vacant from closings and layoffs in the years and months prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Jerry Carney, IUE-CWA GE Acting Conference Board Chair, mentioned factories that closed or fired the majority of their employees in Texas, Virginia, Kansas, and Kentucky. In Lynn, Massachusetts, he said, the workforce has decreased from once 20,000 to just over 1,000 people who work “amid cavernous, empty production areas.”

Jake Aguanaga, president of a division of Arkansas City, Kansas at IUE-CWA, said his store was notified of a layoff of more than 52 percent of its 653 employees. “This job is right up our alley,” he said, adding that operators, electricians, programmers, mechanics, testers and welders are ready and able to work, in a facility that has been rapidly remodeled in the past and where the combined empty space corresponds to ‘to different football fields’.

State officials are also crying out for more production. Governor Cuomo begs the federal government to send respirators daily, with an expected shortage of 40,000 in New York. (So ​​far FEMA and Mike Pence together delivered less than 5,000.) Friday, after weeks of appeals from officials, President Trump claimed that he has invoked the Defense Production Act, a war measure allowing the government to intervene in the production and supply of national defense equipment, in negotiations with General Motors.

Walter Bradford, president of a Chapter in Dallas, Texas from IUE-CWA, said today that GE could not only help make up for the deficit, but save its store from a proposed permanent shutdown. “If GE wants, the company can bring our doomed plant to life.”

GE was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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