Saturday, June 24, 2000

GE unions turn up volume as contract expiration nears

Bloomberg News and The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW YORK — General Electric Co. employees representing 14 unions rallied outside the New York studios of the company's NBC television network today as both sides continue to meet before the unions' contracts end Sunday.

        The head of the Machinists union at GE Aircraft Engines in Evendale hopes there won't be a strike when national labor contracts with the international conglomerate expire.

        “My members don't want to strike and can't see that a strike is to GE's benefit either,” said Joe Sweeney, president of International Association of Machinists Local 912 at the Evendale jet engine plant, before Friday's rally in New York.

        But he added that Local 912, which represents 650 GEAE workers, will support a strike if one is called by union leaders. “My members have strong resolve to see inequities addressed,” Mr. Sweeney said.

        About 300 union members demonstrated in favor of im proved job security at General Electric, the world's biggest company by market value. The workers were protesting what they say is flight of General Electric jobs outside the United States, as well as other issues, including pension benefit policies.

        About a dozen officials of Machinists Local 912 and United Auto Workers Local 647, which represent about 2,000 hourly workers at GEAE's Evendale operations, were in New York for the rally.

        General Electric has 340,000 workers making products that vary from light bulbs to jet engines. About 58 percent, or 197,000, are in the U.S. In 1997, the last new contract, GE had 239,000 employees, with 155,000, or 65 percent, in the United States.

        Of the non-U.S. jobs added in the past five years, about 80 percent came through acquisitions, not movement, General Electric said.


        Mike Boyer contributed to this report.


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- GE unions turn up volume as contract expiration nears