Vice Motherboard - March 30, 2020

On Monday, General Electric factory workers launched two separate protests demanding that the company convert its jet engine factories to make ventilators. At GE's Lynn, Massachusetts aviation facility, workers held a silent protest, standing six feet apart. Union members at the company’s Boston headquarters also marched six feet apart, calling on the company to use its factories to help the country close its ventilator shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic.

These protests come just after General Electric announced it would be laying off 10 percent of its domestic aviation workforce, firing nearly 2,600 workers, along with a “temporary” layoff of 50 percent of its maintenance workers in a bid to save the company "$500 million to $1 billion.” This news came as Congress stood ready to pass a multi-trillion dollar corporate bailout that would include at least $50 billion in federal assistance and $25 billion in loans and temporary tax relief for the aviation industry, as well as a further $17 billion for federal assistance to companies deemed "crucial to national security." GE says it does not plan to request funds from the stimulus.

In a press conference, members of the Industrial Division of Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA) explained how General Electric’s current layoffs and closures would undermine future efforts to increase ventilator production. Without experienced workers to operate now empty and idle factories, production will likely be slowed down.

IUE-CWA Local 86004 President Jake Aguanaga offered his plant, located in Arkansas City, Kansas, as an example of how much manufacturing capacity could be converted: more than 52 percent of his workforce has been laid off, and several football fields worth of factory space are currently sitting idle. “If GE trusts us to build, maintain, and test engines which go on a variety of aircraft where millions of lives are at stake, why wouldn’t they trust us to build ventilators?” he said. ...
Read full report at Vice Motherboard