Our guest blogger is Mike Elk, a freelance labor journalist and third generation union organizer based in Washington, D.C. You can follow him for more updates on Wisconsin on twitter at @MikeElk.
ast week, the New York Times reported that, despite making $14.2 billion in profits, General Electric, the largest corporation in the United States, paid zero U.S. taxes in 2010 and actually received tax credits of $3.2 billion dollars. The article noted that GE’s tax avoidance team is comprised of “former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.” After not paying any taxes and making huge profits, ThinkProgress has learned that General Electric is expected to ask its nearly 15,000 unionized employees in the United States to make major concessions. This year, 14 unions representing more than 15,000 workers will negotiate a new master contract with General Electric. Among the major concessions GE has signaled that it will ask of union workers is the elimination of a defined contribution benefit pension for new employees, a move the company has already implemented for its non-union salaried employees. Likewise, GE is signaling to the union that it will ask for the elimination of current health insurance plans in favor of lower quality health saving accounts, a move the company has already implemented for non-union salaried employees as well.
In addition, General Electric may ask some workers for a wage freeze. Since the recession began in 2007, GE threatened to close plants in Schenectady, NY and Louisville, KY unless workers took wage concessions and adopted two-tier wage structure. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Mark Haller, a machinist at General Electric locomotive factory in Erie, PA, said:
The company I work for paid no federal taxes last year, but we all get these mass emails from GE asking us to call our Congressman to fund the useless, alternative GE engine for the F-35. As taxpayers, we are subsidizing the profits of this company to a huge extent and now after making the company even more profitable, they are asking us to make concessions on pensions, benefits, and perhaps even wages. You wonder why there is a jobs crisis in this country with a guy like G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt heading the President’s Jobs Commission.
In 2003, union workers at 16 different General Electric factories engaged in a strike when G.E. proposed to cut their health care. Workers are mobilizing again this year. They have planned a rally that is expected to attract 10,000 workers from all over the country at the General Electric Locomotive Factory in Erie, PA on June 4th.