Last Wednesday union members at General Electric plants across the country protested to pressure the $88 billion company to shift production to ventilators and ensure safe working conditions during COVID-19. Actions at plants in Massachusetts, Virginia, Texas, and New York were coordinated by the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers (IUE-CWA)—the latest in an escalating pressure campaign. GE workers are facing a two-fold threat under COVID-19: dangerous working conditions and job loss. On March 23 the company announced that GE Aviation would cut 10 percent of its total U.S. workforce and that half the company’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul employees could be furloughed for the next three months. GE could avert the layoffs, the union said, by accepting funds from the recent stimulus bill or by shifting the impacted GE Aviation shops to ventilator production.
Our national priorities have displayed much the same logic as the person who jumped off a 50-story building and observed, “This isn’t so bad,” as they hurtled past the 20th floor. But just like that fool, denial works for only so long. Then splat. For decades, our leaders have invested handsomely in death, spending the majority of our annual tax payments on armaments and empire, leaving humanity and the planet to fend for themselves. Now, in a real crisis, we’re freaking out. It’s not like there weren’t warnings, either. They even came in writing — on banners, picket signs, leaflets, newspapers, even a few on TV. The very best came on the wind, like this one from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
General Electric factory workers protested on Monday in an act of solidarity to demand the company use its factories to produce ventilators for use in the fight against the coronavirus. As the peak of coronavirus infections and deaths is still nearly two weeks away, GE workers have demanded the company convert its jet engine factories to begin producing ventilators. Vice News reported that workers at the company’s Massachusetts aviation facility stood six feet apart and held a silent protest. Union members at the Boston headquarters marched six feet apart and said the company should retrofit its spaces to fight the pandemic. The protests come days after GE announced it would lay off 10 per cent of its domestic aviation workforce, resulting in job losses for nearly 2,600 workers.