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Unions make bid to save DeKalb GE plant

DeKALB – A decision on the future of General Electric’s DeKalb Motors Plant is expected within the next two weeks, a union representative said Monday.

Kathy Brown, IUE-CWA Local 1081 president said a bargaining team of six union representatives presented the proposal to DeKalb plant managers Thursday so the managers could relay the proposal to corporate officials.

Brown did not want to divulge the specifics of the proposal, but said it met the financial goals set by the company.

“They gave us a target price and we met that. Actually, we beat that,” Brown said. “I’ve been working day and night on this. Now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.”

GE notified workers Jan. 9 that it planned to close the DeKalb facility at 1900 Pleasant St., but gave union representatives 60 days to submit a proposal to keep the plant open. If the plant were to close, 94 people would lose their jobs.

GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman told the Daily Chronicle in January that union representatives had to close a 20 percent to 30 percent price gap between motors made in DeKalb and those sold by competitors.

Most plant workers are represented by the IUE-CWA Local 1081and the rest by IAM Local 2068.

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

Brown said Monday that GE officials would decide within seven to 10 days. If company officials accept the proposal, it will then be presented to union members for approval, Brown said. A resolution should come within the next two weeks, Brown said.

“I know this plant makes a big impact on DeKalb,” said Brown, who has worked there for 30 years.

GE is among the top 20 to 25 manufacturers in the county, according to Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.

Brown said Borek, DeKalb Mayor John Rey and Illinois Manufacturing Extension Office DeKalb Regional Manager Chris Blumhoff were supportive while union representatives drafted the proposal and suggested cost-saving measures.

“Our desire is to see the plant stay open and no jobs lost,” Blumhoff said.

Almost half of the 94 employees at the plant would be eligible for retirement benefits if it 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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