On the Picket Line

Unionists at GE in Louisville reject company’s contract offer

By Kaitlin Estill
November 30, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 83761 at GE Appliances here voted down the bosses’ second contract offer by 57% on Oct. 29. They had rejected their first offer Sept. 16 by 87%. Many told the Militant they needed and deserved more. The plant employs 4,100 workers.

“We are extremely disappointed that employees did not vote to accept the most recent proposed contract,” the company, which is owned by Haier, said in response to the rejection. “For the second time, the proposal was unanimously endorsed by the IUE-CWA negotiating team at the local and national levels.”

“With this latest contract, I’m worried about the new workers. The workers coming in are going to get slaughtered,” Aaron Little, a GE Appliances production worker since 2012, told this worker-correspondent during a shift change Nov. 13. “We used to have pensions. Now all we have is a 401(k). And with this latest contract it wouldn’t start for new hires until they’ve already been working for the company for a year.”

Starting pay at GE is $14 an hour. Workers got an additional $1.50 of “appreciation pay” starting Aug. 24, but this has since ended.

Dino Driskell, president of Local 83761, told WDRB-TV he was “kind of at a loss” about why the members rejected the contract.

In the proposed contract, production workers hired before October 2005 and maintenance workers hired before June 1, 2009, would receive a one-time hourly raise of 50 cents this year and a $1,500 bonus in December, with only a $1,000 cash payout for each of the last two years of a three-year contract. Production workers hired between 2005 and 2017 would receive a $1 raise, the $1,500 December bonus, and 50-cent raises the next two years.

“When an employee has worked at the park five years, he should be able to pay his bills,” Anil Khadka, a Building 3 technician, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Gas, food, insurance — it’s still going up. The pay’s not going up” enough to cover it.

Many workers are also dissatisfied with the high cost and low coverage of the health insurance plan. “We voted down the contract twice because we want better medical insurance and more pay,” José González told Militant worker-correspondent Maggie Trowe Nov. 11. “The owners are trying to make more profits by holding us down.”

“Maybe they think on $14 an hour we can pay the $4,000 medical insurance deductible,” Heather Blair told Trowe at the plant gate. “We’re fired up about the insurance!”

The GE plant has seen record demand for home appliances during the government-imposed lockdowns.