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Schenectady union members vote to approve revised GE contract

Schenectady union members vote to approve revised GE contract

IUE-CWA Local 301 had voted to reject first version of contract
Schenectady union members vote to approve revised GE contract
An aerial view of the GE campus at the foot of Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — Unionized workers at General Electric’s Schenectady and Niskayuna campuses have voted to approve a revised version of the four-year contract they voted to reject last month.

“IUE-CWA Local 301 members voted overwhelmingly today to ratify the revised tentative agreement from General Electric,” said Rob Macherone, Local 301 business agent. “This agreement provides our membership with good benefits and wage increases [while] also keeping GE competitive in today’s global market. Our hope is that GE Power turns the corner from a business standpoint and invests here in Schenectady and rewards our workforce.”

A GE spokesman said Tuesday evening: “We are pleased to announce that the IUE-CWA membership ratified the revised four-year agreement with GE. We appreciate working with IUE-CWA leadership to produce a package that provides increased wages and improved benefits for employees. With the IUE-CWA vote we now have a ratified four-year labor agreement with all of our unions and look forward to moving ahead under the agreement to continue to serve our customers.”

GE earlier this month said changes negotiated in the revised agreement include a total cash compensation increase of $14,000 over four years, versus $12,000 previously; $2.80 per hour total wage growth, vs. $1.80 previously; and a 4.9 percent employee healthcare premium contribution in years two through four, vs. 5.9 percent previously.

As Macherone noted in his statement, General Electric is struggling to turn itself around financially, perhaps nowhere more so than its GE Power business — a victim of poor timing, failed strategy and questionable decisions amid major changes in the market it served. GE Power has been reducing its workforce and closing facilities in an effort to save money.

The workforce at the Schenectady plant, which until recently was the headquarters of GE Power, is down to a few hundred IUE-CWA members. The Niskayuna campus, headquarters of GE Global Research, has an even smaller number of IUE-CWA members.

The international conglomerate no longer will say what its headcount is for individual facilities in the Capital Region, only that it has over 4,000 people working in the area. That would include a small medical imaging factory in North Greenbush.

At the end of 2018, GE said it employed 283,000 people worldwide, 97,000 of them in the United States. Of the U.S. workforce, barely 10 percent was unionized — 9,900 workers.

The contract proposal negotiated in June would have covered 6,600 U.S. workers in 11 unions. A majority of the 6,600 workers voted in favor of the proposal in early July, but a majority of the members of IUE-CWA locals 301 and 201 voted against it. Under an all-or-nothing provision, all votes from thosee two locals were then counted as “no” votes, which was enough to sink the proposal.

That sent GE and IUE-CWA back to the negotiating table, where they came up with the revised agreement, which union leaders recommended their members vote to approve.

Local 201, at a GE Aviation facility in Lynn, Massachusetts, announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that its members also had voted in favor of the contract.

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