GE Appliances workers vote to ratify 4-year labor contract - WDRB 41 Louisville News

GE Appliances workers vote to ratify 4-year labor contract

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GE Appliance Park Zoneline production line GE Appliance Park Zoneline production line
IUE-CWA 761 President Dana Crittendon IUE-CWA 761 President Dana Crittendon

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- About 3,800 hourly workers at Louisville’s Appliance Park voted Friday to accept a new four-year labor contract with GE Appliances.

Members of the IUE-CWA Local 761 agreed to the deal with a 2,675 yes, 715 no vote after rejecting an initial offer by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in November.

“We are thankful to our employees for their ongoing commitment to continuous improvement and supporting our customers,” said Eric Leef, chief negotiator and human resources manager for GE Appliances. “The vote to accept the contract is positive news for employees, Appliance Park, the Louisville community and our business.” 

The contract includes a number of cost-saving measures aimed at improving the profitably of the massive factory in southeast Louisville, which currently loses “hundreds of millions” of dollars annually, according to GE Appliances management.

The contract makes overtime pay harder to come by and adds a new tier of lower-paid, entry-level workers at $12-$14 an hour.

But after the initial rejection, union negotiators were able to secure small hourly pay raises for the vast majority of workers at the park, to keep some rights to job placement based on seniority and to preserve the current 10 percent pay bump for workers on odd-hour shifts.

"The contract is the piece of the puzzle that will help make us competitive," said Kim Freeman, spokesperson for GE Appliances. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done going forward."  

The 65-year-old manufacturing park – where workers churn out refrigerators, washers, dryers and air conditioners – had been owned by General Electric Co. until June, when GE sold its appliance division to Qingdao Haier Co. of China.

Haier’s $5.6 billion purchase gave it the opportunity to establish its own contract with the Louisville workers. Appliance Park is the only factory in the GE Appliances group with a union workforce.

GE Appliances released a statement Friday evening following the vote:

The IUE-CWA Local 83761 has informed us that their members have ratified the proposed contract with GE Appliances. The contract, which took close to six months of thoughtful negotiations by both the Union and the Company and was unanimously endorsed by the Union’s local and national leadership, is a solid plan that will provide good wages and benefits for our employees and makes critical changes to help better position Appliance Park in our hyper-competitive industry. 

"The membership is very excited," said union president Dana Crittendon. "We all are. We finally get to breathe a little bit and know what direction we're heading in."

Crittendon says the contract goes into effect immediately. It runs through June of 2020.

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