Union workers in upstate New York are pleading with President Trump to help prevent layoffs by requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to build six massive new electricity generators in the US instead of moving some overseas.
The TVA is a federally owned electricity supplier in Tennessee and neighboring states. On Monday, Trump fired two TVA board chairmen and demanded the TVA president’s ouster for laying off Americans while outsourcing tech jobs to a company in India.
Workers at the historic General Electric campus in Schenectady — where Thomas Edison once worked — hope Trump will now help them. The factory is slated to build three “H35” power plant generators for the TVA next year, but another three are expected to be built by GE in Poland.
A worker at the plant told The Post “I almost spit my coffee out” while reading about what Trump did to TVA leaders for outsourcing tech jobs.
“He’s a hero in this building,” said the worker, who asked not to be named. “Our plea is please do not send more of our work overseas.”
Many workers at the factory, located northwest of Albany near the Mohawk River, are the second or third generations of their family to work there. They say the economic effects of COVID-19 sharply reduced new orders, and they need all the business they can get to avoid deep layoffs.
IUE-CWA Local 301 business agent Chris Depoalo said the union “is asking that President Trump help ensure the longevity and security of America’s power manufacturing by first having TVA make a request to have all of its turbines, generators and all relative parts for a power plant be built in the United States of America.”
Depoalo, whose father also worked the plant, said “it is with no small amount of trepidation that IUE-CWA local 301 is asking for President Trump to not just hear our plea for help, but to come to Schenectady, New York, himself. President Trump, help lead us through these trying times.”
The Schenectady factory’s workers pride themselves on being able to “build anything” in sprawling facilities constructed as electricity was first being introduced to homes. But over the years, the workforce has dwindled — dropping one third last year alone.
Trump, who campaigned against outsourcing in 2016, on Monday hosted TVA workers impacted by IT layoffs at the White House and signed an executive order seeking to stop federal agencies such as the TVA from outsourcing work.
Workers in Schenectady believe Trump can call up the TVA and stipulate that all new generators will be built in the US, and that GE management would send the generator work to New York.
The three generators would add about 30,000 work hours to the shop’s schedule, giving 15 full-time employees work for a full year.
It’s unclear if the TVA, which operates dozens of dams and three nuclear power plants, has other orders that may go overseas. Stoking Trump’s rage, TVA President Jeff Lyash is the highest-paid federal worker, taking home $8.1 million last year.
In Schenectady, Depoalo says the union fears that COVID-19 could permanently hurt the factory if deep layoffs happen.
The pandemic “resulted in the slowest power market the world has ever seen. In turn we are looking at hundreds of American jobs being lost, potentially forever,” Depoalo said.
The union workers there say they recently made steep salary and benefits concessions to improve competitiveness, which they believe Trump would respect. But they argue they’re up against state subsidies in other countries that give unfair advantages and reduce overhead costs.
The workers in Schenectady say they can build products quickly and well, and that they believe the pandemic shows that “we cannot be beholden to foreign nations for critical infrastructure.” On Thursday, Trump will sign an executive order in Ohio seeking to return medical supply chains to the US.
Depoalo said workers and GE management “worked hand in hand to make us as competitive as possible, lowering pay rates, losing pensions, cut backs to health benefits and it is still not enough.”
According to Depoalo, “in most socialist countries, the government absorbs the cost and overhead of building and maintaining their power grid. We have been at a constant disadvantage to lower wages and lower overhead cost since we are not just competing with other business but other countries.”
“We are asking for the help of our country to keep the skilled labor, knowledge and power independence of our country, in our country,” he said.
Spokespeople for the White House, GE and the Tennessee Valley Authority did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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