Newsweek: GE Under Bipartisan Fire from Senators for Sending U.S. Defense Jobs Abroad

An excerpt from this Dec. 14, 2022 Newsweek article appears below. Click here to read the full story
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on whether to advance the Pentagon‘s annual funding bill, and a key requirement missing from this year’s $858 billion package is to ensure defense dollars are being spent on manufacturing done in the U.S.A.
As was exposed with the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, America can find itself at the whims of foreign adversaries like China when it comes to accessing goods critical to the nation’s security.
Retired Army Brigadier General John Adams explained to Newsweek that carrying out manufacturing domestically provides the nation with a trained workforce that can ensure sustained access to goods of the highest standards.
“In a crisis we can’t rely on foreign countries to supply the equipment we need, but moreover, we need our economy to work,” Adams told Newsweek. “One of the hardest things to do in any industry is to train the workers who can do manufacturing. Once you lose that capacity, it’s gone.”
Members of both parties in the U.S. Senate have taken steps to shore up supply chain vulnerabilities, including a bill ensuring the U.S. moves to end its dependence on China and Russia for critical defense materials. Despite this trend, a U.S. manufacturing powerhouse is taking steps in the opposite direction.
In states like New York and Massachusetts, GE moved jobs assembling parts for military jet engines in Lynn, Massachusetts and Schenectady, New York to countries including Romania, Poland, and South Korea, a Cornell and University of Massachusetts Boston report found.
Jet engine rebuilding and maintenance work once carried out in towns in states such as Madisonville, Kentucky and Arkansas City, Kansas have been offshored to Singapore and Malaysia. In 2020, GE sold its lighting division to Savant Systems, which in Fall 2022 shut down the last GE residential lighting plant in the U.S., located in Bucyrus, Ohio.
“For those supply chains that are critical for national defense,” the report adds, “the U.S. is committed to ensuring reliable production access within its defense industrial base.”
U.S. lawmakers representing states impacted by GE offshoring struck a stronger tone, suggesting that if GE does not reverse course, Congress may take action to address the concern itself.
“Defense contractors such as GE should be investing in U.S. workers and doubling down on domestic manufacturing in communities like Lynn, not offshoring jobs abroad,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told Newsweek. “We need stronger rules so that companies who receive taxpayer dollars are more compelled to strengthen our supply chains at home, which helps prevent disruptive shortages and price hikes and also bolsters U.S. national security.”
“General Electric is making a short-sighted mistake by shipping jobs overseas when it should be investing in American workers and manufacturing,” Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio explained that, “Decades of bad trade and tax policy have sent good-paying union jobs overseas, and they haven’t been replaced by the manufacturing careers workers were promised.We need to make more in America and keep jobs in America — particularly when the jobs have the potential to concern our national security.”
Republican Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas said, “It is totally backwards for a federal contractor like GE to spend our taxpayer dollars on overseas production.”
General Adams said he’s met GE workers, and “many of them” are veterans. The patriotic spirit that led them to serve, he said, continues in their work for GE as they produce military equipment that supports U.S. national security. Yet, Adams said they soon may find themselves “standing up for America” by taking a stance against their employer to prevent the further offshoring of jobs.
Jerry Carney, the union’s chief GE contract negotiator said that when negotiations begin he wants the company’s word that the restructuring will not be used to roll back the benefits and rights currently afforded union workers.
GE has already seen protests at its Schenectady, New York plant over the company’s offshoring. Carney also stressed the need to maintain pay and union protections ahead of the split.
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