FACT CHECK: ‘GE Moving Salem, VA Jobs To India & China’ – Is This Billboard Real?

Shane Devine | Fact Check Reporter

Facebook page Being Liberal posted a grainy image of a billboard that allegedly reads, “GE moving Salem, VA jobs to India & China while CEO makes millions.”

“The new billboard outside the Salem, Virginia GE plant,” claimed the Dec. 10 post. “Local President Vickie Jackson Hurley and the members of IUE-CWA Local 161 are (rightfully) furious that GE is moving their jobs to a new plant in India.”

Verdict: True

A union put up the billboard to protest General Electric’s decision to close a manufacturing facility in Salem, Virginia. GE says the work will be absorbed by existing employees at a plant in India, as well as a supplier that has operations in China. The plant in India is not new, and the sign is in Roanoke, Virginia, not outside the GE plant in Salem.

Fact Check:

GE has had a financially troubling year, with its stock price having declined more than 55 percent year-to-date. As part of an effort to improve its profitability, the company set a target for $2 billion worth of spending cuts in 2018 and announced that it would be cutting 12,000 jobs in its power sector, both domestically and abroad.

Union workers and shareholders protested the company’s annual corporate meeting in April, citing plant closures and cuts to health care benefits.

One of the facilities to close is a manufacturing plant in Salem. During the summer, GE announced its decision to close the plant and lay off more than 200 employees.

The decision was heavily opposed by Salem’s IUE-CWA Local 82161. The union engaged in negotiations with GE in a bid to find cost savings that could keep the plant open, but negotiations failed, and GE confirmed in August that it would move forward with its plans.

Vicky Hurley, president of the Local 82161, confirmed the existence of the billboard and said that her union was responsible for it being put up. Contrary to the Facebook post, the sign is not outside the plant in Salem, but next to a highway ramp in Roanoke.

Hurley provided The Daily Caller with pictures of the billboard and said that her chapter has paid for two additional signs in the area. The organization plans to put up another on Dec. 24.

Photo attained by The Daily Caller via IUE-CWA Local 82161. "[The] billboard is located as you enter on ramp to 581N from Orange Ave in Roanoke," they wrote.

Photo obtained by The Daily Caller via IUE-CWA Local 82161. The billboard is located by the ramp to I-581 North from Orange Avenue in Roanoke.

“It would be nice if corporations like GE would care more about American workers, families, and communities, and less about leading the global race to the bottom,” IUE-CWA Headquarters told TheDC in a statement.

Reporting by Fox-affiliate WFXR confirms the existence of the other signs in Roanoke and Salem.

A GE spokesperson defended the facility’s planned closure. “The decision to stop manufacturing in Salem was a difficult one, made because of a significant decline in orders at this facility and continuing challenges in the Power industry overall,” reads a statement provided to TheDC. “GE is providing impacted employees – nearly half of whom are eligible for early retirement – with comprehensive severance packages and transition support to new employment. At the same time, GE continues to have a presence in Salem, with more than 200 additional employees in the community.”

GE says the plant, which opened in 1955, was operating at around 40 percent capacity and had lost 35 percent of its volume in the last two years. Hurley says the severance pay was negotiated in the union contract.

The work will be performed by Jabil, a global manufacturing company that does work in China, and an already-existing plant in Pune, India. A spokesperson for GE told TheDC that the work being transferred to India will be absorbed by existing employees at that facility.

Employees who will be managing the work in Pune traveled to Salem to learn about the plant’s operations. The Salem plant will cease manufacturing operations in the next year or so.

After a challenging year, GE CEO John Flannery recently resigned, receiving an exit package worth more than $10 million. He was only CEO for about 14 months but had worked at the company for 32 years.

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Shane Devine

Fact Check Reporter