No doubt about it, GE has a big problem.
Since everything they do is justified in terms of
"competitiveness", the Company desperately needs
to find someone or something to compete against. After
all, the $10.7 billion net profits they reported for 1999
puts them at the top of the corporate heap. Moreover, all
of the business pundits recognize them as the world’s
most powerful company. What worlds are left for them to
Therein lies the answer. Since there’s
no one is left in the corporate world to match GE, it’s
time for them to start competing against the world itself!
In fact a look at the figures shows that GE is already
doing surprisingly well in the world arena.
A comparison of GE’s revenues ($110
Billion for 1999) with the latest figures available for
the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worldwide reveals GE is
already doing so well at this global game that it takes
in more than all but about 33 countries on the
That means GE revenues are bigger than the
GDP’s of Hungary, the Czech Republic, New Zealand,
Ireland, Egypt, the Philippines and Colombia among many
others. In the last two years it has overtaken Israel,
Malaysia, and Portugal, and is rapidly closing in on
Finland, Greece, and even oil-rich Saudi Arabia!
Of course coming in 33rd violates Jack
Welch’s commandment that GE must be #1 or a strong #2 in
all of its businesses. And GE still has a ways to go
before it displaces the current top two which are the good
old USA and Japan. Perhaps one of these will be a
candidate for GE’s next big acquisition or at least a
prospective joint venture partner!
LOCAL 506 MARKS
MLK DAY, BUILDS UNITY
Last January 17, GE workers across the
country enjoyed a paid holiday on the occasion of the
anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birthday. Many used
the time off to participate in activities honoring King
and the civil rights movement. UE Local 506 in Erie, for
example, participated in a Memorial March on the day,
joining with Erie civil rights and community
Local 506 has established a Unity
Committee which last November received the first "Unity
in Diversity" award presented by the Citizens
Against Racism of Erie (C.A.R.E.). As reported by the
Local 506 Union News, the committee has worked to develop
awareness of racial issues. In addition, when called upon,
the committee has intervened to help resolve actual or
potential problems among workers in the shop involving
racial or sexual harassment problems.
It’s also worth remembering that it took
five sets of negotiations before GE finally agreed,
kicking and screaming, to add MLK day as a paid holiday
under the National Contract. MLK day became a recognized
federal holiday in 1984, but not for GE until 1998,
following a breakthrough in the last hour of the 1997
Finally, we should keep in mind that King
was not merely a dreamer as he is so often portrayed in
the mainstream press. He was, above all, a doer, an
activist, an agitator, and an organizer.
His fatal trip to Memphis in 1968 was
undertaken in support of striking garbage workers there.
Local 506’s continuing efforts to build unity represents
the best tribute that can be made to King and to the many
others who have devoted themselves to the cause of social
and economic justice and equality for all.
A "GIVING" COMPANY
Like any wise investor, GE believes in a
balanced portfolio. They’re taking no chances with
respect to the next President or Congress. Based on
figures released in January by the Federal Election
Commission, GE’s PAC has ponied up over $400,000 to
various candidates during the 1999-2000 election cycle
with 43% of the money going to Democrats and 57% to
In addition, GE ranks in the corporate top
ten in giving so-called "soft money", not tied
to any specific candidate, to the two major parties. So
far this amounts to another $347,000 of which $265,000
went to the Republican Party and $82,000 to the Democrats.
And remember the elections are still nine months away!
But even this doesn’t tell the whole
story. In recent years there have grown up various
nonprofit organizations with innocent sounding names which
exist solely to do the corporations’ dirty work on
political and economic issues. Because these outfits can’t
be tied directly to political work, but pass themselves
off as having an "educational" function, all
contributions they receive are tax deductible.
By using these front organizations, GE and
other companies are able to maintain a low public profile
on many issues while effectively renting a mouthpiece at
taxpayer expense. To cite just one example, in 1998 GE
gave $500,000 to an outfit called Citizens for a Sound
Economy (CSE). After all, who could be against that? It
turns out however that CSE spends all of its time
educating about the evils of any sort of regulation on the
activities of corporations, which they tell us pay too
much in taxes.
CSE’s campaigns make extensive use of TV
ads, and in 1998 included backing the defeated California
initiative, the so-called "paycheck protection"
question, which would have effectively muzzled unions from
participating in the political process. CSE has also spent
millions opposing both a Federal plan to restore the
Everglades, and higher cigarette taxes at the behest of
the sugar and tobacco companies respectively.
So as the political season warms up in
y2K, you can be sure GE will be getting its message out,
either straight from the mouths of Democrats and
Republicans alike or through various fronts like CSE. As
GE sees it, it’s better to give and to receive.
MORE WITH LESS"
GE is so good at getting rid of people
that it’s easy to overlook the fact that they sometimes
actually hire folks as well. One place they have been
looking for recruits is in the ranks of the military. In
the last four years in fact, they’ve hired well over
1,000 former military officers to exempt jobs around the
And the reason for this hiring wave? Well,
it seems that one thing the military teaches is obedience
to higher authority, combined with unquestioning
acceptance of whatever the mission is as determined by
that higher authority. It’s a nice fit for GE which is
always looking for what Welch calls "true
believers" in GE’s mission — ever higher profits.
And according to one employment recruiting
executive, as quoted in the Wall Street Jounal,
"Everyone in the military is being forced to do more
with less. That is exactly what is happening in corporate
America." We would qualify the statement by saying
that it’s workers and not executives who are doing more
with less. Evidently Jack thinks that ex-military officers
will do a good job of squeezing more juice from the lemon.
Having ponied up $3.5 Billion for the
rights to televise the next five Olympic Games, GE is
taking a "see no evil" approach to the ongoing
Olympics scandal. So what if many International Olympic
Committee (IOC) members, including IOC head Juan Antonio
Samaranch, have for years been taking what amounts to
bribes from various cities competing to host the games?
What’s important is NBC’s TV ratings for the games,
which determine what it can charge for advertising. NBC
sports chief Dick Ebersole has taken to defending
Samaranch and the IOC against its critics, calling them
But just who is serving themselves? It
turns out that some time back Samaranch made an NBC
official, Alex Gilady, a full fledged member of the IOC.
Gilady had hung around Olympic committee meetings for
years, and was informally known as the "delegate from
NBC". He was wearing both his NBC and IOC hats at the
same time Samaranch was cutting a secret deal with NBC
giving them ten years worth of Olympic rights without the
other networks even having a chance to bid.
We seem to remember something about
ethical business practices and avoiding conflicts of
interest the last time we glanced through GE’s Integrity
booklet. Oh well, with $3.5 Billion at stake, boys will be
STRICTLY BY THE BOOK
Evidently GE isn’t comfortable with the
idea of people deciding for themselves what to read. Last
year, an excellent book came out entitled At
Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of
Profit. The author, business writer Thomas O’Boyle, took
a critical look at GE’s record of lawbreaking, job
elimination, and environmental recklessness as well as
Welch’s ceaseless demands for ever higher profit
numbers. It turns out the GE was aware of the project and
on several occasions attempted to intimidate O’Boyle
with implied threats of legal action. This included
contacting his publisher, supposedly because GE was
worried that the book would be "biased" or
By contrast, GE’s publicity machine has
been lavish in its praise of NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw’s
book entitled "The Greatest Generation", about
those who came of age during World War Two. Brokaw has
made many appearances on NBC and affiliated networks
promoting the book. What GE neglected to tell anyone is
that NBC owns about 25% of the book and therefore
profits from every copy sold, even while they shamelessly
pitch it to their viewers.
As for Jack Welch’s recommended reading
list, we doubt that it contains any books. Rather,
according to a letter he sent to stockholders, he expects
all GE employees to memorize Six Sigma principles by the
time he retires! It’s a fitting legacy for Jack. He’s
downsized everything else. Why should he view GE workers’
intelligence any differently?
Speaking of Six Sigma, we are indebted to
a member of UE Local 1010 in Ontario, CA who passed on to
us news of a major Six Sigma breakthrough. His report
GE R&D Discovers New Element
Investigators at the GE R&D Center of
Excellence recently discovered the heaviest element known
to science and have tentatively named it Sixsigmium.
Sixsigmium has no protons or electrons, thus having atomic
number of 0. It has however .1 neutron, 125 assistant
neutrons, 75 vice neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of
These 312 particles are held together by a
force that involves the continuous exchange of mason-like
particles called morons, or in some circles,
"Black Belts". It is also surrounded by
lepton-like particles called peons, also referred
to as "Green Belts". Since it has no electrons,
Sixsigmium is inert. However it can be detected chemically
as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with.
According to its discoverers, a minute
amount of Sixsigmium causes one reaction to take over four
days to complete when it would normally have occurred in
less than one second. Sixsigmium has a half-life of
approximately six years; it does not decay, but instead
undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the
assistant neutrons, vice neutrons, and assistant vice
neutrons exchange places.
In fact, a Sixsigmium sample’s mass will
actually increase over time, since with each
reorganization the morons inevitably become neutrons,
forming new isotopes. This characteristic of moron
promotion leads some scientists to speculate that
Sixsigmium is spontaneously formed whenever morons
reach a certain quantity concentration. This hypothetical
quantity is referred to as the critical morass.
GE likes to portray itself as a company
that "does the right thing", including donating
to worthy causes. In 1997 for example, GE’s corporate
foundation gave away $40 million to charities. That
sounds nice until you realize that in that same year Jack
Welch alone grossed more than double that
amount in salary, bonus, new stock options, and exercised
stock appreciation rights. It would appear that for GE,
charity really does begin at home.