GE Appliances workers take 'strike authorization' vote as contra - WDRB 41 Louisville News

GE Appliances workers take 'strike authorization' vote as contract talks continue

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Members of IUE-CWA Local 761, led by president Dana Crittendon, rallied ahead of previous contract negotiations in May 2015. Members of IUE-CWA Local 761, led by president Dana Crittendon, rallied ahead of previous contract negotiations in May 2015.
Water heater production inside GE Appliance Park, Louisville Ky. Water heater production inside GE Appliance Park, Louisville Ky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  Rank-and-file workers at GE Appliance Park are taking a “strike authorization vote” today, a union official told WDRB News.

The move comes about two months after GE Appliances began negotiating a new labor contract with IUE-CWA Local 83761, which represents about 4,000 rank-and-file workers at Louisville’s Appliance Park.

The contract talks began in August and were expected to last about two months.

The strike authorization vote merely gives the union’s negotiating committee the authority to begin a strike if the talks reach an impasse, IUE-CWA 761 President Dana Crittendon said in a letter to members last week.

Crittendon declined to comment Monday.

GE Appliances spokeswoman Kim Freeman said the contract talks continue and that management is “certainly hoping” to reach an agreement with the union.

“I would just consider this part of the process of preparing for a worst-case scenario,” Freeman said in reference to the union’s strike vote.

Just before the talks began, Crittendon said it would be the “toughest contract (negotiation) ever” for the union, which previously negotiated its labor deals as part of a national agreement with General Electric Co.

But Haier Group of China bought GE Appliances for $5.6 billion in June. Appliance Park is the only union-represented workforce in the GE Appliances network.

Ahead of the negotiation, GE Appliances management said the wages of the Appliance Park workers are too high to be competitive in the low-margin appliance business.

Meanwhile, the cost of company-provided healthcare for rank-and-file workers is growing too fast and “legacy work practices” regarding overtime and seniority are detracting from the plant’s efficiency, according to the company.

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