Jan 7, 2016
Members of IUE-CWA Local 83761 working at GE's Appliance Park in Kentucky have taken on the threat to their jobs first hand. GE had pushed to send more work overseas and, in fact, employment, once at 9,000, had fallen below 2,000. But IUE-CWA has been working to reverse that decline with the rollout of the Lean High Performance Manufacturing program, funded by the CWA Strategic Industries Fund.
Insider Louisville just published a great story about the turnaround.
IUE-CWA sees Lean/High Performance as a strategic approach to job security. The union can go on the offensive to improve plant operations and win long-term job security for members, before a company announces layoff plans. Read more about the IUE-CWA Lean program here.
As Insider Louisville writes, "The idea was pretty simple: People who spend their whole day building a product probably have some good insights into how to improve the product and the way it is made. Having those employees on the same campus as designers and engineers fostered communication and cooperation, which increased efficiency and improved quality."
Mike Mayes, lead trainer for the IUE-CWA Lean program, said, "Our Lean program gives workers an avenue to improve their jobs, so they can be successful." In the beginning, Mayes said, many workers worried that a Lean program was just another way for management to trim the workforce. In fact, the opposite became true. "Lean is about making and building jobs, not about losing jobs," he said.
Working together, IUE-CWA workers and GE now build hybrid water heaters, refrigerators and new washer/dryer units in America. Some of that production had been previously done in China, while other work had been slated to go to Mexico. At Appliance Park, the number of jobs has climbed to 6,000.
"This success story is a testament to the power of partnerships between employers and a committed and engaged union workforce," said IUE-CWA President Jim Clark. "The commitment of our members to the Lean High Performance culture is one of the main reasons that companies wanting a larger footprint in the U.S. market see value in Appliance Park." GE cites the plant's positive performance as one of the reason there are several interested buyers; the potential sale to Swedish-owned Electrolux was blocked by the U.S. Justice Department over anti-trust issues.