BIRMINGHAM, AL – Today the nation’s largest union for General Electric workers announced that nearly 200 GE Aviation workers at the Auburn, Alabama plant have launched an historic new union organizing campaign. With strong majority support, these GE Auburn workers, who use cutting-edge technology to build the next-generation of aircraft engines, say they want to become the first GE workers to organize a union in nearly a decade.
GE Auburn workers submitted union cards to the Birmingham office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today and announced that GE workers across the country are mobilizingform unions at their factories as well. Workers announced the GE Auburn organizing campaign with IUE-CWA at a Birmingham event today with national and state support, including Alabama AFL-CIO President Bren Riley, and leaders from Alabama Jobs With Justice, and Alabama Interfaith Power and Light.
Alabama families are facing rising prices from inflation, making it harder for wages to keep up. As GE’s $2.5 billion plan to break up the company moves forward, the company is only creating more uncertainty about what the future holds for all GE workers and the communities that have counted on these jobs for decades. Fueled by these concerns and inspired by a national wave of worker activism at Fortune 500 companies like Amazon and Starbucks, these GE Auburn workers have come together in a push to form the first-ever union at the factory.
GE Auburn Manufacturing Associate Marcus Durrell: “As a GE Auburn worker for nearly seven years, I have seen firsthand how the company has put profits ahead of workers. GE recently ripped away our specialized job titles and relabeled all of us as generic ‘manufacturing associates’ to deny us the pay we have earned for our skill and experience. Union factories like the one I came from would never be able to get away with this. I’m standing with my co-workers to start a union with IUE-CWA and make sure that we protect these jobs and can always make our voices heard.”
Since launching their union campaign in April, the 179 workers in the plant have faced a wide range of GE union-busting tactics intended to intimidate them. GE workers report being subjected to mandatory anti-union captive audience meetings, misleading management flyers, unannounced pop-up drug testing, new security cameras to monitor their work, and unlawful threats from managers that their factory will shut down if workers form a union. In 2017, the last time GE Auburn hired union-busting consultants, the company paid a firm $2,200 a day plus expenses to intimidate workers. Despite this, today a strong majority of workers have already expressed their support for the union, with support continuing to grow stronger every week.
GE Auburn Manufacturing Associate Chris Lester: “As a veteran, I am proud that I was able to serve my country and can now raise a family here in Auburn. My job at GE helps me provide for my five kids and give them the life they deserve. I am standing with my GE Auburn co-workers to join together in a union because I want to make sure our jobs are protected and we are able to secure the good pay and benefits we need to provide for our families.”
GE Auburn Manufacturing Associate Tanya Tate: “Working at GE Auburn for over six years in the blades department, I’m proud of the work we do to support our troops with the aviation equipment they need. But with inflation hitting all of our families, workers at our plant are worried about making ends meet. GE Auburn workers started this union organizing campaign so that we can come together to secure the good pay and job security we need. But GE is trying to intimidate us by forcing us to watch anti-union videos and unlawfully claiming they will shut down the plant if we unionize. GE Auburn workers are standing together today to say we will not be silenced as we exercise our rights to make our voices heard.”
IUE-CWA, the union that GE Auburn workers are seeking to join, represents thousands of GE workers in plants across the country, including factories in Ohio, Kansas, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and New York. GE Auburn workers launched this union campaign to demand better pay, better healthcare, hazard pay for those working with dangerous chemicals, and job security.
IUE-CWA Conference Board Chairman Jerry Carney: “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. As the nation’s largest union for GE workers, IUE-CWA is proud to stand with these GE Auburn workers to call on the company to immediately end its ruthless union-busting tactics and support a free and fair union election. Now more than ever as GE spends billions to break up the company and potentially endanger the jobs of GE workers across the country, GE workers deserve to have their voices heard.”
Alabama AFL-CIO President Bren Riley: “The Alabama AFL-CIO is standing together with these GE Aviation workers in Auburn all the way! GE workers and workers all across Alabama are standing up to make their voices heard in their workplaces, and the Alabama AFL-CIO is proud to always stand on the side of working families across our state. We’re calling on GE Aviation to end their anti-union scare tactics and to let these workers in Auburn exercise their right to a free and fair choice to form a union.”
The GE Aviation plant in Auburn, Alabama employs 179 workers across a wide range of departments that support the production of vital components for both U.S. military aviation equipment as well as major commercial airline manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus. Opening in April 2013, the GE Aviation plant in Auburn was the first of its kind to mass produce additive components for the jet propulsion industry.
When the Auburn factory expanded in 2014, GE promised that production would quickly ramp up from 1,000 fuel nozzles manufactured annually to more than 40,000 by 2020. By 2021, the GE Auburn facility produced 100,000 fuel nozzles and the workforce there has been pioneering technology in jet engine component production. Reports that GE managers have told employees the Auburn factory would close if workers form a union stand in stark contrast to the productivity numbers GE itself has released. GE Auburn productivity levels also clearly demonstrate the value these workers are creating for the company, providing strong evidence to back up their call for GE to increase pay for the factory’s workers.