August 2011

IBEW Members Ratify GE Contract
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More than 1,200 IBEW members at General Electric overwhelmingly ratified a new four-year contract in July, days after the company reached an agreement with its larger unions.

"It is a good contract," says Manufacturing Department Director Randy Middleton. "All in all, it is a net gain for GE workers and went a long way in meeting the needs of both current and retired employees."

The agreement contains a projected wage increase of more than 7 percent over the life of the contract, a $5,000 bonus, improvements to vacation and sick time, a beefed-up disability pension and improvements to retiree health benefits.

"The contract offers a special early retirement window for long-service employees, a key issue," says International Union of Electrical Workers—Communication Workers of America lead negotiator Bob Santamoor, whose union represents more than 8,000 employees at GE.

Workers under the age of 65 will be able to buy into the retiree health plan at a 50 percent discount. Current retirees will also receive an extra pension check each year.

The bargaining committee agreed to GE's demand to close pension plan participation to new hires. But, Middleton says, the company made a strong commitment to funding a new defined contribution plan.

"I don't think anyone is happy about having to make that change, but we did end up with a healthy defined contribution account," he says, "which gives young employees a good start towards a secure retirement." New hires will get an automatic 3 percent company contribution. If they contribute 8 percent, the company will kick in another 4 percent. In addition, the company will add $600 to the account yearly.

Leaders of the United Electrical Workers and the IUE-CWA—the two largest unions at GE—reached a tentative agreement with the company June 24. The terms of the contract were extended to the 12 other GE unions, including the IBEW, United Auto Workers and the Machinists.

System Council EM-5, which coordinates IBEW bargaining at GE, unanimously recommended the settlement offer. Locals affiliated with the council are New York Local 3; Chicago Local 134; Atlanta Local 613; Milwaukee Local 663; Houston Local 716; Medford, Mass., Local 1014; Lexington, Ky., Local 1627; Buffalo, N.Y., Local 1813; and Bloomington, Ind., Local 2249.

In the last few years GE has committed more resources to investing in American manufacturing, defying the industry trend of outsourcing and layoffs.

More than three years ago, workers at GE's Bloomington, Ind., refrigerator plant were told the company was planning to shutter the factory, putting more than 700 members of Local 2249 out of work. But last fall GE announced that not only would the plant stay open, it was hiring 200 more workers as part of a $93 million facility upgrade to add a new line of side-by-side refrigerators that will incorporate "green" insulation and other components.

Go to to see the IBEW video team's coverage of GE's big comeback in Bloomington.

The IBEW ratified a new four-year contract with General Electric in July, winning a 7-percent wage increase and beefed up retirement benefits.

Photo used under a Creative Commons License by Flickr user chuckthewriter.