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Officials announce intent to close GE plant in Fort Edward

Operations to move to Florida; union to fight decision
2013-09-18T16:28:00Z 2013-09-19T18:02:18Z Officials announce intent to close GE plant in Fort EdwardBILL TOSCANO -- btoscano@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
September 18, 2013 4:28 pm  • 

FORT EDWARD -- Nearly 200 jobs at the General Electric Co. plant on Route 4 are in jeopardy after the company informed employees of its intent to move electrical capacitor production to Clearwater, Fla., next year in meetings Wednesday.

“This is not a final decision,” company spokeswoman Chris Horne said Wednesday. “The proposed closure is subject to a 60-day decision bargaining period with UE Local 332.”

If there is no change during the bargaining period, the plant could close as soon as Sept. 19, 2014, she said.

Scott Gates, president of Local 332 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said the union was “blindsided” by the announcement. Gates said his union has 177 production workers at the plant. Horne said there are 20 salaried employees at the plant.

“We will fight this with whatever it takes,” Gates said. “We will reach out to the community, to elected officials, to other unions, and we will fight to save these jobs. We have to fight this with all we’ve got — there are too many lives at stake.”

Ed Bartholomew, president of EDC of Warren County, said he will call a meeting of local economic development groups and government officials to form a response and plan in case the plant closes. No date has been set for the meeting.

Horne said the proposed closure is part of General Electric Energy Management’s focus on establishing “Centers of Excellence” around the country.

She said there are plans to move other manufacturing facilities to Clearwater to reduce costs by taking advantage of the buildings, engineers, human resources and other departments already there.

“There’s a lot of anger here,” said Mark Rock, chief shop steward for the union. “There’s sadness and frustration. This was a shock. They told the salaried employees just before they told the production workers.”

Gates added: “It’s pretty dismal. People are upset around here. We are a dedicated workforce.

“This is corporate greed and union-busting. Not for nothing, but that facility in Clearwater is a non-union site. There is no need to do this other than greed from GE,” he said.

Both Rock and Gates said the impact of closing the plant would devastate the local economy.

“I think people do not know the kind of money the workers here put into the community,” said Rock, who has been at the plant eight years.

Gates said production workers make an average of $26.50 to $27 per hour.

“This hurts 200 families of GE workers and many more families in the community,” Gates said. “It will have a devastating effect on small businesses in our area, costing more people their jobs, reducing local services, harming a lot of people.”

At one time, the Fort Edward plant and another in Hudson Falls employed 2,500 people, according to the union, which said the plant has been profitable for GE.

“This is not a reflection on the Fort Edward workforce. It’s important to note that,” Horne said. “The workforce has partnered with the business on initiatives to make us more competitive.”

According to the national contract between GE and the union, the proposed closure is subject to a 60-day bargaining period, and the union’s press release said the union will request those negotiations.

Gates, who has been at the plant 10 years, said he does not have high hopes for the negotiations.

“We have the chance to present them with information on how to save money and save jobs,” he said. “But GE never changes their mind once they make an announcement. We don’t know what they want. We live by the contract. We negotiate it, sign it and shake hands. We expect the same.”

Gates said the contract runs through June 19, 2015.

Horne said the local plant “continues to be non-competitive in our core product offerings,” and that has led to lower production. She said competitors are using lower labor and operational costs to grow in the capacitor business.

A capacitor is a device that maintains efficient power flow during electrical transmission.

The national president of the union weighed in with a published statement which blasted GE.

“The company’s announcement is an outrage,” Bruce Klipple said. “Local 332 has our backing 100 percent as we fight to keep these jobs in Fort Edward.”

Klipple went on to compare the decision with GE’s history of pollution of the Hudson River.

“GE dumped PCBs into the Hudson River from this plant site,” he said, noting that between 1947 and 1977, the company discharged 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls into the river.

“Now with this announcement, they’re telling us that they intend to dump the workers who made the company successful, as well as their families and their community, again for the sake of bigger profits.” he added. “We can’t let them get away with it.”

Copyright 2016 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(20) Comments

  1. DonS
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    DonS - October 31, 2013 12:31 am
    We got word of our plant closing on Oct 29 in Canonsburg Pa. Bought our old company out and ran us into the ground. Made many broken promises. All GE wants is a high profit margin. Thought my job was secure. Woe to the GE employees.
  2. boater_1
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    boater_1 - September 20, 2013 5:56 pm
    Doug, been a while,

    Never saw you comment on the ACCURATE data finding that 2009 - 11 the wealthiest 7% added 700k (28%) to their net worth while the other 93% lost 6k ON AVG. (4%). (Pew research from census data.) Pls. do comment... & when's coffee?

    It's WORKERS, union & NON - PUB. & PVT. SECTORS taking the hits you & yours call for more of. That's the LAST thing we need as it punishes mid class spending & taxpayers WELL BELOW the 450 k nat. threshold on 2013 increased taxes. Those toasted teachers & union GE workers will spend less. RESULT: Curtains for other workers' jobs.

    Your CUT spending for pub. workers, WILL continue to feed the pockets of the nation's richest & destroy workers of ALL stripes in NY AND FL ultimately! Un & underemployed workers have less TO SPEND. That CRUSHES THE JOB PIC THROUGHOUT THE NATION.

    More of what's happened IS on the way. You, yours & MANY poorer workers support it.

    It doesn't "fix." But, item A is TAX the wealthiest to lower workers' taxes!
  3. lbz1947
    Report Abuse
    lbz1947 - September 20, 2013 11:57 am
    albe71-I was under the impression that GE does'nt pay taxes here in NY or anywhere in the US. For Doug Be I thought GE makes money at the Ft. Edward plant-This is my opinion I think they are a greedy company whose top people make a lot of money (though its never enough for them) & I realize my own little boycott does nothing but it still makes me feel I did something I will never again buy a GE product-actually I hav'nt in a long time.
    Someone though I can't remember told me a long time ago this country was supposed to be a monarchy. Maybe it was my dad who got a kick in the A-- from his bosses.
  4. IWILLNOTCOMPLY
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    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - September 20, 2013 7:41 am
    Maybe we should all move to Florida where taxes are lower and the quality of life is better.
    Why don't the dim-wits in Albany get it? NY with the highest taxes is watching as business after business leaves the state. These asleep at the brain people want a millionaire tax and guess what happens they move away and pay NOTHING in taxes in NY.
    Ronald Reagan proved it works, he lowered taxes and more people went to work and as a result MORE money went into the treasury then with higher taxes.
    Sorry for any who will lose their job but this is what happens when you get in bed with the democrats. Your union backs any democrat no matter what their record is and as a result you live in a unfriendly business state.
    Instead you should be backing people who will make NY a state to open new business and keep the ones we have here going.
    What do you think Prince Cuomo will do? Give them some tax break? If he does it proves the point, LOWER THE TAXES AND MORE WILL STAY HERE!
    DEMAND CHANGE!!!!
  5. City Park Glasgow
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    City Park Glasgow - September 20, 2013 2:26 am
    They failed to mention that Fort Edward GE made $30,000,000 in Fort Edward last year. So the pay seems fair..
  6. albe71
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    albe71 - September 19, 2013 8:17 pm
    There are two other entities involved with the welfare of Fort Edward GE plant besides the producing union worker. This would be...#1.. the white collar workers in the GE plant... and #2..the good old State of New York. Are GE's white collars doing their job? What does their average pay scale break down to per hour. Could they do better? Could they increase their hourly production? Would they take a pay and benefits cut? And then NYS!! The maker of taxes and regulations and rules and laws and restrictions and things unending. NYS is infamous for being one of the worse states in the whole United States to do business in. And what is the average hourly pay of the unionized state worker. I won't bring up the hourly pay of the upper pay scale nonunion people, especially the hourly pay of our state legislators. Are any of the state employees losing their jobs or taking pay cuts to cut the amount of taxes GE has to pay to do business in NYS? Maybe we should move some state jobs to Florida.
  7. Douglas Be
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    Douglas Be - September 19, 2013 4:52 pm
    To All,
    This is indeed very troubling. A year from now when GE has moved their operations and jobs to Florida here is what we can expect to be left with.

    1. SCHOOL taxes,,,,the remaining tax payers and businesses in Fort Edward will have to make up the huge loss of school tax dollars once the plant is closed and re-assessed.

    2.Local and county taxes will also take a huge hit following the same process as the school district.

    3. Local businesses will take a big hit and some may fail as a result.

    4. The school districts will lose students as some of the 200 people/families (I assume 125 families or more live in Ft.Edward / Hudson Falls area) will be forced to move to find a job.

    5. On and on it goes and we all suffer. I personally NEVER want to see a person lose his job.

    And on the other hand if a plant is not competitive with its pricing, benefit package etc..etc..and is losing money than if you were an owner of this plant what would you do???
    A very difficult question.
    Doug Be
  8. Powell
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    Powell - September 19, 2013 12:42 pm
    The Bloomington Indiana plant is laying off 160 people. Last contract we took a pay freeze and voted in the two tiered wage. And they promised to invest $169Mil. in a new product . We have gotten NOTHING but lies. Then the said they would retire all those who were 55 and had 25 years who wanted to retire. that would have saved most of the people who wanted to keep their jobs. Now they say NOPE laying the low people off. We all have 25+ years there, and the youngest person in the plant is in their 50es...I wish all of you the best and send you all prayers.
  9. PicaGE
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    PicaGE - September 19, 2013 12:11 pm
    Scott Gates said. "But GE never changes their mind once they make an announcement." This is not true. GE was going to close the West Burlington Iowa plant, the employees were given 60 days to come up with a way to save 8 million a year. That goal was meet and the plant is still open. Also the West Burlington plant is non-union.
  10. realquiet
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    realquiet - September 19, 2013 12:07 pm
    Without unions these people would be working for peanuts. Why shouldn't they get paid wages that they can live comfortably on? Mill work is demanding, dirty and can be dangerous. Not everyone has a college education and can sit at a desk earning 6 figures. GE can WELL AFFORD to pay these wages. Horne and her fancy words "continues to be non-competitive in our core product offerings" all because 200 workers earn a decent living wage. It is obvious this is corporate greed at its best (or worse)!
  11. theMaven
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    theMaven - September 19, 2013 11:48 am
    Yeah, GE and the unions can work it out,
    drop pay in half, kill all benefits and go on food stamps.

    Problem solved!

    Anyone who thinks the companies are playing in good faith
    should come up for air.

    When Slobama chose Immelt to help with unemployment, it could not be clearer
    which side of his mouth he talks from.


    Both.

    And you braniacs who think unions are the demise of manufacturing,
    ever since Patco, companies have been in a take it (our offer)
    or leave it (your job) mode, workers are getting slammed on the job and in the pocket.

    Other than the public unions who have been buying legislators outright,
    Unions per se are holding on by a thread, #'s way down, wages wrt col waay down, benefits further down.

    Why does anyone thing Slobama is pushing obamacare down our throats?
    A lot of corporate bribes, eer, donations to pay back.

    Washington,Albany and local, best government money can buy.

    O well, as I love saying, the people get the government they deserve,

    God help us..........
  12. John Veitch
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    John Veitch - September 19, 2013 11:41 am
    I know people who work at the plant, and I can relate to both sides. The employees work hard, and put in a lot of OT. So the union needs to protect the worker.
    I do not think GE is trying to force the employees to work at $10/Hour, and have no 401K. If a competitor is making the same product for less, then GE needs to cut costs, and they are looking at labor as one cost component.
    Hopefully the union AND GE can come up with cost savings - if indeed other companies are taking the business away.
  13. Maries
    Report Abuse
    Maries - September 19, 2013 10:19 am
    General Electric moving its operations to Florida......it won't be "clearwater" for long.

    Production workers make an average of $26-27 dollars per hour. Would you expect someone who works for a company their entire life to make $10 per hour? The union has conceded wages, health insurance and pension benefits.

    Some people would be happy to see our middle class working for $10 per hour, no health insurance, and try to fund your 401K while the company no longer does matching contributions. The new middle class will never be able to retire, while the top management get stock options, bonuses and golden parachutes regardless if they're productive or inept.
  14. electric
    Report Abuse
    electric - September 19, 2013 9:48 am
    As much as I dislike the Unions,GE, NY, and the DNC it will take all four to work this out if the plant is to stay.
  15. viper
    Report Abuse
    viper - September 19, 2013 8:58 am
    To beyond-belief,
    they failed to mention that Fort Edward GE made $30,000,000 in Fort Edward last year. So the pay seems fair......
  16. zmikeoc
    Report Abuse
    zmikeoc - September 19, 2013 8:30 am
    If anyone is to be blamed for this look at our political leaders. Over the years they have given all the power to the Unions driving up pensions, State prevailing wages and fringe benifits all for support in their general elections. In turn the State raises the cost of doing business in New York where we can't compete on the world market. I can't wait till local and State goverments can't pay off the pension deals they sold all New Yorkers out for.
  17. insider
    Report Abuse
    insider - September 19, 2013 12:42 am
    Not only does this affect the employees at GE,but also the contractors at GE.
  18. beyond - belief
    Report Abuse
    beyond - belief - September 18, 2013 9:01 pm
    "Gates said production workers make an average of $26.50 to $27 per hour.".............
    "Horne said the local plant “continues to be non-competitive in our core product offerings,” and that has led to lower production. She said competitors are using lower labor and operational costs to grow in the capacitor business.".............
    Bottom line, the demands of Unions are driving business to relocate or close. The current economy can no longer sustain these low entry , high paying jobs. It really should not be that big of a shock to anyone.
  19. WT
    Report Abuse
    WT - September 18, 2013 6:39 pm
    GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt was named to Obama's committee to reduce unemployment. Since then he shipped a whole bunch of GE Corp overseas, and now this. Odd way for someone on a 'Presidential Jobs' Committee member to treat American workers, no?.
  20. UR Mom
    Report Abuse
    UR Mom - September 18, 2013 4:57 pm
    Will the workers be able to relocate to Clearwater?

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