General Electric factory workers at an aviation facility in Massachusetts walked off the job on Monday as part of a demand for the company to shift its resources to begin producing ventilators that are in short supply as hospital systems fight the coronavirus.
As Vice News reported, employees at the plant held a silent protest as they stood six feet apart, calling on the company to join others that have turned manufacturing facilities toward producing the much-needed medical equipment.
The protest came after the company announced it would be laying off 10 percent of workers in its domestic aviation division, accompanied by a temporary layoff of 50 percent of its maintenance workers, the report added. The Industrial Division of Communication Workers of America said in a press release that the layoffs would hurt the company’s ability to shift toward producing ventilators.
“If GE trusts us to build, maintain, and test engines which go on a variety of aircraft where millions of lives are at stake, why wouldn’t they trust us to build ventilators?” IUE-CWA Local 86004 President Jake Aguanaga told Vice News.
The Vice News report noted that some union members believed that GE’s healthcare division, which is the country’s largest producer of manufacturers, would be taking over the other existing divisions to expand its operation and produce more of the medical machines. There is some belief that President Donald Trump may use his power under the Defense Production Act to compel General Electric to produce more ventilators, but he has not done so yet.
A number of other companies have already shifted into manufacturing ventilators, with General Electric using its expertise to help coordinate some of the operations. Ford announced this week plans to make as many as 50,000 simple ventilators within 100 days and producing up to 30,000 per month after that, CNN Business reported. The report noted that GE Healthcare is working closely with the automaker to increase its ability to manufacture ventilators, and that supply lines will be shared between the companies to produce them faster.
Medical experts have said there will be a massive need for ventilators as the coronavirus continues to spread and outbreaks hit certain regions of the country particularly hard. In New York City, which has become the epicenter for the outbreak in the United States, there is a need for 30,000 more ventilators as the outbreak is expected to reach a peak sometime in the coming weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.