GE may close DeKalb plant

DeKALB – General Electric has notified workers at its DeKalb Motors Plant that it intends to close the facility in the first quarter of 2015.

The announcement, made to union representatives Jan. 9, gives union members 60 days to submit a proposal to keep the facility open, said Kim Freeman, spokeswoman for GE.  If the plant at 1900 Pleasant St. in DeKalb is shut down, 94 workers would lose their jobs.

“Right now the plant is not competitive,” Freeman said. “When you look at motors sold by other competitors, the DeKalb motors are 20 to 30 percent more expensive.

“Because of that, we intend to close the plant. However, if the union wants to come back and give us a proposal on how we can close that gap, we have 60 days to do that.”

GE has operated its DeKalb Motors Plant since 1946. Workers at the plant make small motors used in residential clothes dryers.

Most of the workers at the plant are represented by the IUE-CWA Local 1081and the rest by IAM Local 2068. The two unions plan to bargain jointly with the company, said Kathy Brown, IUE-CWA Local 1081 president.

The company’s cost-cutting demands will not be met easily, Brown said.

“We’re hoping that DeKalb County will help us out on that, and maybe give them some breaks on taxes or whatever to try to keep us open,” Brown said. “We will try to come up with ways to save GE some money to try to keep it open.”

Brown said already they have found some suppliers who say they can offer discounts on the level GE is seeking, but there will be more work to do.

She said she has worked at the plant for more than 30 years and has been through past layoffs and call-backs, and that workers have made wage concessions before to try to keep the plant open. However, competition from overseas manufacturers is fierce.

“It’s just going to be a tough road for all of us,” Brown said. “We’re just hoping that we can negotiate and try to keep our doors open.”

Almost half the 94 employees would be eligible for retirement benefits if the plant were to close. The remaining workers would be eligible for plant-closing benefits, such as preferential employment placing at other GE operations, severance, tuition reimbursement, and extended insurance benefits.

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