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Local Officials Express Concerns After Latest Round Of General Electric Layoffs

General Electric Co.

General Electric says it’s laying off 200 hourly workers at its Schenectady plant that produces steam turbines for the company’s power unit.

Boston-based GE said Tuesday the layoffs include unionized manufacturing and assembly employees in Schenectady, where Thomas Edison co-founded the company in 1892. Another 25 unfilled jobs will be eliminated.

Economic advisor Hugh Johnson says the Electric City has been struggling for quite some time.

"And of course a big part of it's General Electric. You look at all the counties in upstate New York. We're talking about the bottom 5 to 10 counties. Schenectady's right in there. I hate to say it. A slight loss of employment. A slight loss projected also in my work for 2017-2018, despite the real progress they're making with a lot of things that are going on in Schenectady. They have some pretty imaginative creative and aggressive development going on, but facing that headwind, and the headwind is General Electric. Fortunately I think the leaders, political and business leaders in Schenectady have recognized that they can't depend or lean on General Electric anymore," said Johnson.

A GE Power unit spokesman said the layoffs come after a 45 percent drop in volume at the plant. 

Democratic state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara of the 111th district says GE is a leader in many aspects, except when it comes to being a good corporate citizen.

"Earlier this year thousands of General Electric retirees, employees and dependents found out they could no longer use retiree health plans that they received upon retirement and the company justified this change saying that it would save the company $3.3 billion. And today's announcement that they were eliminating 225 local jobs in Schenectady just adds insult to injury. The company continues and show profits top executives are still making enormous salaries and the layoff they are now exclusively effect blue collar hourly workers. When you look at former CEO Jeff Immelt, he exited the company with benefits and shares worth about a hundred million dollars and the new CEO John Flannery now draw the salary that's a 157 times higher than that of the average employee at General Electric. This latest move is going to hurt working families in our area and amounts of nothing more than corporate greed," said Santabarbara.

Senator George Amedore, a Republican from the 46th district, says GE's decision will have a negative impact on the Capital Region.

"These men and women who have been sacrificing and giving their all to develop a superior product for General Electric throughout the years, they deserve better than just a pink slip, unannounced, and it was, and that's unfortunate. So I'm going to try and do what I can do as co-chairman of the Senate Task Force on Workforce Development," said Amedore.

Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy tells WNYT that in light of GE's 126-year history in Schenectady, he finds the layoffs disappointing, but hopes the city plant stays competitive.   

"It has a global position and in the global market you're seeing shift in the way electricity is generated how it's distributed and how it's used by the end consumer," said McCarthy.

GE's employment in its original headquarters has hovered around 4,000, many of those roles in engineering, marketing and procurement. Another 1,500 scientists and technicians work at the company’s main research lab in neighboring Niskayuna. 

GE laid off 130 hourly workers at the two facilities in January.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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