Amidst the ongoing surge of Coronavirus cases in the U.S., a union covering workers at General Electric recently demanded that the company put laid off workers back to work and task them with making badly needed ventilators. General Electric had already increased its ventilator-making capacity and set a goal to double it further, but the union wanted the company to put ignored human resources to better use — which includes better protections from the Coronavirus for those workers that are still on the job, the union added.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and its industrial unit, the IUE-CWA, insisted upon the return of roughly 2,600 aviation production employees that the company said it was going to lay off. Layoffs have rattled the U.S. economy, with some ten million new unemployment claims in the last two weeks alone as businesses have closed in attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus.
CWA President Chris Shelton insisted:
‘Our country depends on these highly skilled workers, and now they wonder why they are facing layoffs, instead of having the opportunity to use their unbelievable skills to help save lives.’
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has joined those calling on the increased production of ventilators. Recently, he tweeted:
‘I stand with GE’s workers who are calling on the company to convert its factories to produce ventilators. No more layoffs, outsourcing, and tax dodging, @generalelectric . Put Americans to work manufacturing the life-saving ventilators we need.’
I stand with GE’s workers who are calling on the company to convert its factories to produce ventilators.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 30, 2020
Meanwhile, the General Electric plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, is among the facilities currently open — it produces military aircraft in more ordinary times. Amidst the continued work, even as the virus spreads among the community at a rapid rate, the General Electric workers union is also demanding mandatory temperature checks to catch fevers that could be markers of the virus and higher pay for those who are still on the job in hazard conditions.
The company claims that they’re already protecting workers.
GE spokesman Jeff Caywood said:
‘In accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, we’ve taken a number of preventive and protective measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees as we continue to support our customers during this uncertain time. We have implemented additional, COVID-related paid leave policies and continue to work with individual employees who may have unique risk factors or situations.’
Still, other companies have faced similar demands. For example, Amazon workers have reportedly been left in precarious conditions. More than a dozen Amazon facilities have faced Coronavirus cases confirmed in their midst recently, but the company has largely kept these facilities open rather than shutting down for a deep cleaning, and in the meantime, basic supplies like disinfectants for daily use are sometimes unavailable.
One Amazon employee told CNN:
‘We Amazon employees work hard every day, the least [the company] could do is be honest about the condition of things inside the belly of this beast,’
The company, like General Electric, claims that they’re doing just fine. They recently revealed plans to hire tens of thousands more workers at facilities across the country as demands for their mail-order services grew big time.