U.S. Taxpayers Bankrolled General Electric. Then It Moved Its Workforce Overseas

When Sam Bansfield first started working as a material handler at General Electric’s Lynn, Massachusetts plant in 2012, she remembers the noise—the loud clanking of her coworkers in the piece-making wing of the jet engine factory.

Nowadays, she says, the place is painfully quiet. “You can hear everybody,” she says. “There’s no machines running. There’s not any work.”

Bansfield’s experience resonates across the United States. Since 1989, GE’s domestic labor force has declined by 75%—from 277,000 to just 70,000 workers, according to a new report first reviewed by TIME from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and Cornell University. Part of that decrease can be explained by GE’s decision to sell pieces of its business, including its biopharma and transportation arms. But its manufacturing plants have been gutted too: since the 1980s, production personnel at GE’s Lynn, and Schenectady, New York plants have been cut by 90%.

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