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Sat Dec 26, 2020, 08:14 PM

Jack Welch, General Electric CEO, Foe of US Workers, Unions: 'Have Every Plant You Own On A Barge' [View all]

Last edited Sat Dec 26, 2020, 09:03 PM - Edit history (1)

'Jack Welch Was a Bitter Foe of American Workers.' History News Network, *March 6, 2020. - Excerpts, Ed:

With the U.S. firmly in its second Gilded Age, the creators of this period of epic income inequality, growing racial violence, and undermining of our democratic institutions are already beginning to pass from the scene. One of these is Jack Welch, who died last week at the age of 84. Most of the national obituaries of Welch focused on his outsized personality and aggressive management style. Those things did help change the trajectory of American capitalism, but the obituaries left out or downplayed Welch’s greatest impact in shaping the unequal and unfair America of today: unionbusting.



- Jack Welch (Nov. 19, 1935- March 1, 2020), CEO of General Electric. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Welch

For many years, General Electric was one of the largest corporations that had a stable relationship with its unions. Under Gerald Swope’s leadership, GE had come to terms with labor unions in a system of collective bargaining that created a profitable stability. While Swope’s successors at GE were not as favorable to unionism as he, the company was a stalwart of union power for decades. When Jack Welch took over GE, he brought a very different perspective to the question of unions. He wanted them out. He was no outsider. He had worked for GE for twenty years before becoming CEO.

But rather than learn how unions can sustain a workplace where workers feel valued, where they have safe and healthy jobs, and where they make wages that allow them to live with dignity, the lesson Welch took was that unions got in the way of maximizing profits. That Welch came to power the same year that Ronald Reagan ushered in the new era of unionbusting by firing the air traffic controllers in 1981 was coincidence, but a fitting one. Welch’s rise coincided with American corporations began moving millions of industrial jobs overseas, helping to undermine organized labor and reorient the nation to concentrate wealth in the top 1% of income holders, which very much included Welch and other GE executives.

He made GE one of the leaders in corporate mobility. As he infamously said, “Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge” (1998). He closed union plants in the north and reopened them in the non-union south or overseas.

..The era of unfettered capital mobility went far to undermine the postwar stability of the working class. American steel companies laid off 40% of their workers between 1979- 1984 while United Auto Workers lost half their members between 1970- 1985. As late as the 1990s, there were tens of thousands of jobs in textile plants in the South. But these were the last remnants of a once robust manufacturing base. In 1995, Fruit of the Loom closed a series of Alabama mills and moved production to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, a process that continued through 2009, when 2 last factories closed, laying off 270 workers. Welch was not the only person responsible for the outsourcing of union jobs, but no one celebrated it with more obnoxious fervor. Welch believed that unions destroyed the American economy, stating in a 2009 forum that there were no competitive unionized industries in the U.S.

Between 1980- 1985, GE’s workforce plummeted from 411,000 to 299,000 workers. The overall percentage of unionized workers in the company fell from 70% when Welch took over to 35% by 1988.

Welch’s entire career was class warfare: the rich against the poor. The only worthwhile value was the quarterly profit report. Fortune magazine named Welch “manager of the century,” a symbol of how toxic American corporate culture had become by 1999.

Welch helped usher in the era of outsized CEO pay that far outstripped that of average workers, recreating the late 19th century world with obscene wealth for a few built on the poverty of many.

Today, we are living in the world Jack Welch made, one in which a racist, proto-fascist, self-proclaimed billionaire whose businesses have worked with organized crime figures is president, governing by the New Gilded Age principles of letting business rule itself and eviscerating labor, consumer, and environmental regulations...

More, https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/174491

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