Wage-cut, Wage-freeze: GE Practices Obama’s ‘Shared Sacrifice’

GE is following a classic capitalist method of squeezing profits out of workers: pitting one group against another to lower wages and conditions for all. GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt has told the company’s unions that “production costs must be competitive to keep factories from closing and moving to Mexico or China” (NY Times, 8/7) — where GE has been moving all along. Its Schenectady, NY, work-force is now 6,000, down from a high of 40,000.

Now, in exchange for building a new plant in Schenectady and expanding one in Louisville, the IUE/CWA union has swallowed a 2-year wage-freeze and a two-tier wage system that cuts newly-hired workers’ wages $10 an hour. For that, GE has “promised” not to move operations for two years. Immelt whines about “America’s sagging manufacturing base,” saying that the U.S. has “lost its competitive edge in many areas, falling behind other countries.” When he says “U.S.” he means U.S. bosses.

GE’s billionaire CEO says that by expanding domestic manufacturing, the company is “putting its money where its mouth is.” Translation: GE is “putting workers’ money (stolen from them) into GE’s profits.”

Immelt wants to mask the class contradiction between workers and bosses behind what Immelt says is “more alignment of management and labor.” He wants bosses and workers “on the same side” — with the bosses on top and workers at the bottom. This is Obama’s “shared sacrifice” with a vengeance: a $10-an-hour wage-cut, a wage-freeze and a (bosses’) “promise” to stay put in this juicy situation for two years.

They need workers’ help in producing more goods for less wages to enable U.S. capitalists to compete with rivals worldwide, and guarantee they can ensure production for their imperialist wars.

Rather than helping GE to “put its money where its mouth is,” workers need to put the bosses where they belong — six feet under.

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