GE: U.S. labor market is competitive

Dec. 30, 2011 at 4:10 PM
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LOUISVILLE, Ky., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- A high-ranking executive at General Electric said the U.S. labor market is now priced right for U.S. manufacturers to consider expansion without outsourcing.

"We have gotten to a point where making things in America is as viable as making things any place in the world," said James Campbell, president and chief executive of GE's appliances and lighting division, The New York Times reported Friday.

Campbell highlighted lower wages as the principal reason the U.S. economy is fertile ground for corporations.

Hurdles, he said, "are significantly less with the competitive wage and that is a big help."

In what would have provoked protests or perhaps strikes not many years ago, unions are now accepting split wages among their workers with new hires being paid up to $15 per hour less than established workers.

Unions have accepted what could be termed the inevitable. A job at a lower-than-optimal wage is better than no job at all, many say.

"You don't want to rock the boat. You take a chance on losing everything you have if you do," said Linda Thomas, 37, who works alongside co-workers doing similar work for about twice her hourly wage at GE's Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky.

For many, the gains unions have made pushing the manufacturing sector into the middle class look to be eroding.

"My hope is that we will rebuild wages to their old levels over time as the economy strengthens and the demand for workers rises," said Thomas Kochan, a management expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"But that is by no means a certainty," he said.

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