GE workers demand company rehire laid-off workers to produce ventilators

“At a time when our country is depending on skilled workers to make essential products like ventilators, our members are left wondering why they are facing layoffs instead of having the opportunity to use their skills to help save lives.”

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Last week General Electric workers walked off the job in a mass protest demanding the company reverse its decision to layoff thousands of workers and instead have them produce ventilators amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The crisis we face with the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. It requires us—all of us—to work for the common good and save lives. But at a time when our country is depending on skilled workers to make essential products like ventilators, our members are left wondering why they are facing layoffs instead of having the opportunity to use their skills to help save lives. We challenge GE to partner with our members and the management of its own Aviation and Electronic Lighting divisions to convert some of its unused capacity to alleviate our critical national shortage of life-saving ventilators,” says the Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Chris Shelton.

Two weeks ago nearly 2,600 workers were laid-off at GE. The company claimed because of the coronavirus there is currently not a lot of demand in the aviation industry. According to EcoWatch, the layoffs would help GE save between $500 million and $1 billion,  while GE Healthcare, one of the country’s largest producers of ventilators, would step up its efforts to produce the supplies.

According to Vice, GE’s Healthcare Division is already one of the country’s largest manufacturers of ventilators, so union members believe that other factories could be converted to produce the life-saving devices. Hospitals around the country say that there is a critical shortage of ventilators, and many experts have implored President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to require companies to produce them.

“GE is working around the clock to increase production of much-needed medical equipment. GE Healthcare has already doubled ventilator production capacity, with a plan to double it again by June, in addition to partnering with Ford Motor Company to further increase ventilator production. We continue to explore additional opportunities to support the fight against COVID-19, while continuing to support mission-critical work for our customers as well,” says the company. 

But advocates, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, stand in solidarity with the GE workers saying: “No more layoffs, outsourcing, and tax dodging, @generalelectric. Put Americans to work manufacturing the life-saving ventilators we need.”

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