AP

GE workers in Alabama seek union

Aug 21, 2022, 11:14 PM | Updated: Aug 22, 2022, 2:38 pm

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Workers at a General Electric factory in Alabama on Monday launched an effort to form a union, joining a wave of recent labor organization efforts at large national companies.

Workers at the 179-employee GE Aviation plant in Auburn, Alabama, submitted union cards to the Birmingham office of the National Labor Relations Board in an organization effort with IUE-CWA. They said it is part of a national effort to organize at GE plants across the country, and comes amid unionization efforts at other large companies like Amazon and Starbucks.

A spokeswoman for the National Labor Relations Board confirmed the regional office received the union petition Monday. To qualify for a union election, the NLRB requires signatures from 30% of eligible voters at a specific facility. The IUE-CWA indicated that more than 50% of workers signed cards but did not provide an exact number.

Two plant workers supporting the effort told The Associated Press, in interviews arranged by union supporters, that pay, the attitude of management toward workers and benefits are among the driving concern of workers.

“We need our voices to be heard,” Marcus Durrell, who has worked at the plant for seven years, said in a telephone interview. He said experienced workers at the plant earn less than workers at other GE facilities.

“We want better pay, better benefits, just having a seat of the table,” Donna Rawlinson, 46, said. Rawlinson, who said she is on short-term disability while undergoing breast cancer treatments, said morale at the plant has declined over the years. “They keep pushing. They want more, but they don’t give anything,” she said.

The company issued a statement in response to the filing.

“GE employs more than 55,000 Americans, pays competitive wages in every community in which we operate and has invested more than a billion dollars in our U.S. facilities since 2016, including in Auburn. We are committed to a direct relationship with our employees based on teamwork, cooperation, and actively pursuing mutually beneficial goals..

The effort at GE follows a union election at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, the results of which are still being contested.

Labor unions appear to be having a resurgence of interest after decades of decline. Just 10.3% of workers belonged to unions in 2021, down from 20.1% in 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unionization campaigns have gained momentum recently, with workers launching efforts at Amazon, Starbucks and other large companies. The Biden administration has also supported efforts to boost unionization campaigns at major employers.

“GE workers in Alabama are sending a powerful message by coming together to form a union for the better pay, benefits, and job security they have earned. Across the country at giant corporations like Amazon and Starbucks, CEOs are getting a wake-up call from workers making their voices heard,” IUE-CWA Conference Board Chairman Jerry Carney said in a statement announcing the effort at the GE plant.

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