Saving Green Manufacturing Through Fair Trade
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Edwin D. Hill comments on the recent announcement by General Electrical Co. that it was closing one of its last incandescent bulb plants in the United States and what it means for the future of domestic “green” energy manufacturing.
Via the Huffington Post:
General Electric Co. announced on July 23 that it was shutting down its Kentucky Glass Plant in July 2010, the last G.E. plant in the United States to make glass covering, known as envelopes, for household incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs - first invented by Thomas Edison more than 100 years ago - are becoming obsolete thanks to new energy regulations which encourage the use of more energy efficient fluorescent bulbs, known as CFLs, the vast majority of which are made in China.
Plant employees, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, knew that the clock was ticking on their jobs unless they could convince G.E. to retool the facility to make CFLs domestically. They even agreed to a voluntary wage freeze and eased restrictions on overtime in the hope that G.E. would prolong the facility's lifespan.
For Hill, unfair and unbalanced trade laws and the lack of enough domestic incentives to develop new energy-efficient manufacturing in the United States put workers and businesses in danger of losing out in the global race to become a leader in green technology.
The development of a new line of green bulbs could have been an opportunity to revitalize electrical manufacturing in North America, but the lack of any kind of substantial federal inducement to build green products at home, in addition to existing trade laws stacked against domestic production, means the great job drain of the last 20 years continues unabated.
The across-the-board decline of manufacturing is harming our emerging green energy sector as much as it has hurt older sectors like steel and auto … According to the Apollo Alliance, more than 70 percent of America's clean energy systems and components are produced abroad, while fully half of America's existing wind turbines are manufactured overseas.
While bills like Sen. Sherrod Brown’s IMPACT Act are steps in the right direction, much more has to be done.
When G.E. began producing the incandescent bulb more than 100 years ago, it kicked off an industrial revolution that ended up putting thousands of residents of the United States and Canada to work at decent, well-paying jobs.
If we want to make sure our current energy revolution does the same, our political leaders need to make a comprehensive commitment to develop a balanced framework for global trade that will rebuild our economy, reduce the planet's carbon footprint and help keeping working men and women on the job.
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