GE workers protest at company’s headquarters, aviation factory after coronavirus layoffs

A logo is displayed next to a gas turbine at the General Electric Co. (GE) energy plant in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. General Electric Co. is scheduled to release earnings figures on January 20.

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The union representing the largest share of General Electric employees in the U.S. is demanding the company use its full manufacturing resources to increase its ventilator output to help fill shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The members of the Industrial Division of Communication Workers of America, or IUE-CWA, protested on Monday at the company’s aviation facility in Lynn, Massachusetts, as well as its headquarters in Boston after the company announced it would lay off 10% of its aviation workforce.

GE Aviation also announced that it would temporarily lay off 50% of its U.S. maintenance, repair and overhaul employees for 90 days. GE predicts these actions will save the company $500 million to $1 billion in 2020, according to a press release. 

However, the IUE-CWA said that GE could leverage the employees to increase its capacity to manufacture ventilators, a piece of medical equipment that is in high demand for treating the most critical patients with COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, Ford and GE Healthcare announced United Auto Workers union employees would begin manufacturing a “simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design” to aid patients who may experience trouble breathing caused by COVID-19.

The company said it is working “around the clock” to increase production of ventilators through its partnership with Ford

“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,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. 

Union members held a silent protest standing 6 feet apart at the company’s facility in Lynn, which the company uses for its aviation manufacturing, and marched 6 feet apart at GE headquarters in Boston.

The IUE-CWA is the larger of the two unions representing GE employees in the U.S. and represents about 4,900 employees. 

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that GE announced it would lay off 10% of its aviation workforce, not its total U.S. workforce.

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