Mike Elk has a nice companion piece to the New York Times story on General Electric paying no taxes after making $14 billion in profits, and in fact getting $3 billion in returns from the government. At the same time that the corporation isn’t giving one penny to the government for use of the commons, they are trying to exact wage and benefit cuts on their own workers.
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.
Unions may opt to strike if GE asks them for concessions, and with the NYT report they certainly have a good deal of ammunition to make their case to the public. There’s a rally planned for June 4th at the GE Locomotive Factory in Erie, PA.
The GE situation is a good model for the New Gilded Age. Corporations can use loopholes and aggressive lobbying for tax breaks to dissolve all their liabilities, and at the same time cry poor and force their workers to accept cuts that only increase their profits. They never expect anyone to put two and two together, and certainly the politicians don’t. The labor movement is more attuned to these storylines, along with the burgeoning progressive alliance, but in a country effectively ceded to corporations, they have a long road.
And it goes without saying that this story isn’t likely to get a lot of play on the so-called “liberal” cable network, in which GE still owns a 49% stake.