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Lights out in Warren at GE lamp plant



Published: Fri, January 24, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

photo

Outside the facility Thursday afternoon, Bill Chachko, a 34-year General Electric Ohio Lamp Plant employee from Hartford Township, called the plant’s closing “a tragedy,” noting at age 54 he’s planning to retrain as a machinist.

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

The closing of the General Electric Ohio Lamp Plant marks the end of a profound relationship between Warren and the incandescent light bulb.

For 85 workers leaving their jobs for the final time today at the 123-year-old GE plant on North Park Avenue, it’s difficult for many to put out of their minds that they were a handful of votes away from still having a job.

Employees interviewed by The Vindicator on Thursday mentioned the vote last March, in which 91 workers voted against a concessionary contract that would have kept the plant open. Eighty-five voted for it.

Bill Chachko, a 34-year Ohio Lamp employee from Hartford Township, called the plant’s closing “a tragedy,” adding: “It should never have happened, and if the vote would have happened today, it would be different.”

Chachko, 54, says he’s planning to retrain as a machinist.

“Eighty-five families are losing out on a job,” said one woman, referring to those who voted for the contract. Her family is losing two jobs because her husband also worked here. “We would have been here another 20 years,” she said of the plant, where 11 workers will stay on for a couple of months, removing equipment that will be taken to other GE plants.

The knowledge that the company was willing to bring new products to the plant and keep it open in exchange for concessions has made the past nine months “so stressful” inside the plant because of the divide between the workers who voted for the contract and those who voted against it, she said.

The company has not decided what it will do with the factory when the final GE workers leave, said Alicia Gauer, spokeswoman for GE Lighting.

Gauer said the building, at the corner of North Park and Dana streets, was built in 1890 by William D. Packard and James W. Packard, who started Packard Electric in 1890 and built the first Packard automobile in 1899 at that location.

Packard Electric started out manufacturing incandescent light bulbs. By 1899, it also had built the first Packard automobiles “in a corner” of the Packard Electric light-bulb building at the site of the current Ohio Lamp Plant, said Charles Ohlin of the National Packard Museum of Warren.

That building is now gone, but it’s unknown when it was removed, Ohlin said.

The brothers sold their Packard Motor Car Co. in 1902 and began Packard Electric’s focus on the wiring business, selling it to National Electric Lamp in 1902, according to a Packard Electric history published by the company in 1990.

GE purchased the light-bulb business from National Electric in about 1916. Meanwhile, Packard Electric’s wiring business grew dramatically on Dana and Griswold streets, where it established its world headquarters, then expanded along North River Road in Howland and Bazetta townships until it employed 11,000 people by 1974.

A 1898 newspaper article says the Packard brothers’ light-bulb company, called the New York and Ohio Co., was the first light-bulb businesses in the United States and the second-largest one in the country at the time.

Warren had the distinction of being the first town in America to light its streets with incandescent light bulbs in 1911, because of the Packard brothers, the National Packard Museum says.

In recent years, the Ohio Lamp Plant was the last GE plant in the United States that made only incandescent light bulbs.

There were 179 members of International Electrical Workers/Communication Workers of America Local 722 at the Ohio Lamp Plant last March, when the vote was taken. There were about 200 workers altogether, counting nonunion employees.

Truck driver Robert Moore of Youngstown, who worked at the plant 15 years, said he thinks the union “lost sight of what unions are really about” when it voted against the contract, referring to those who were willing to give up the jobs rather than accept concessions.

“You’ve got a standard of living, but how will you replace it? With two jobs? Then your kids will suffer,” Moore said. Workers made between $22 and $30 per hour, he said.

“What hurts me is the single moms that are losing health insurance,” he said.

The company announced a year ago that the plant would close, but the union had reached a tentative agreement with the company that would have involved bringing a new product to the plant.

“We’re going to be transferring some of that old equipment out and transferring in new technology as part of the plan to make energy-efficient bulbs,” IUE/CWA Local 722 President Scott Moore said last year before the vote.

“I’ve been here 33 years. I will miss the people,” Freddie Harris of Warren said. “Most of all, they’re like a family to me. I’m going to miss the job, but it is what it is. I wish them all good luck.”

Lynn McNeal of Warren, who has worked at the plant since 1976, said she is grateful for the many years she and the others had jobs at the plant, saying there were many predictions that the plant would close, even when she first got hired 37 years ago.

“Loss of jobs is not good — for us or for the Valley, but I am grateful that [God] allowed me to stay there this long. It’s been truly a blessing for all of us.”


Comments

1Roger_Thornhill(634 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Boo hoo. Thank your union "brothers and sisters" for your loss of jobs.

Live by the sword die by the sword.

Vote Democrat!

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2Irishtiger(47 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

GE is one of America's most glorious companies that pays exactly 0 (ZERO) in taxes and is right there in the pockets of the right wingers. So voting for decency was an issue and I stand with the workers. WHY would you ask hard working people to take concessions when you are making record, over-the-top, profits and don't pay a single penny in taxes? I feel deeply for these people losing their jobs, I do. But they voted for fairness and the BIG BUSINESS factor won out again.

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

excuse me Irish, GE's head honcho is one of Mr. Obama's strongest advocates. However that giant sucking sound we hear started back in 1992 under Slick Willie and Newtie.

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4republicanRick(1254 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

GE's president is Jeffry Immelt who is one of Obama's closest advisers on economic matters. That's why GE got all those "green energy" contracts.

Unions, cronyism with Obama and his close friends, and selfish older GE union workers doomed this plant.

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5dd933(252 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

"Slick Willie" took the oath of office in January 1993. So maybe the sucking sound was just another Bushism.

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6princesskbby(1 comment)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

its not any presidents fault why ge is closing its the 91 SELFISH UNGRATEFUL PEOPLE THAT VOTED AGAINST THE CONTRACT!!! BECAUSE THEY WERE OLD AND WANTED TO RETIRE LAZY AND BECAUSE THEY HATED THEIR JOB AND DIDNT WANNA LOSE 2 DOLLARS!!!! the 85 that are losing their jobs will never find another job that pays $26/hr unless they relocate

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7anothermike(213 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Unions have been taking concessions for years....GE flat out doesn't want to produce any type bulbs in America, which leads me to believe the "deal" on the table must have been pretty crappy for these folks to actually give up their livelihood knowing damn well they cannot get another decent job here in afganistan, Ohio....

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8Roger_Thornhill(634 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. Ironic he'd be involved in "giant sucking sound" with that too.

Anyway, he isn't at fault for union morons voting to eliminate their own jobs.

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9bumbob(137 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

This was such a terrible conclusion. On both sides, GE and the unions alike, this just was abysmal to watch unfold.

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10Georgio(26 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Same story 35 years ago with the mills closings. If companies cannot make a profit they need to cut cost.

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11Roger_Thornhill(634 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Not only did the clowns vote to fire themselves, GE gave them the opportunity to revote. Losers.

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12NilesOhio(766 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

The union mentality closes yet another factory. "I'd rather be unemployed than to make concessions in our contract."

Why would any company want to stay (or imagine this - someone move in) and be bullied by a union when there are so many other areas in the country they could go?

There was a time for unions, but with labor laws being much more strict than they used to be, the time has long passed.

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13fudputer(46 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

these people had a choice--for or against
lets see --from$ 26-30 and hr-to $ 24 to 28 and hr.would you like to ask me how many people i know that make 24 dollars and hr??????????..with all the news surrounding the end of the light bulb as we 've known it..the union couldnt see the light --?? not looking out for the members is disgraceful--me thinks you need some new reps...!!!!!

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14DwightK(1304 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

GE wants access to the American market but they don't want to pay American workers. Welcome to the new Gilded Age where American corporate officers get bonuses for putting for firing American workers.

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1576Ytown(1309 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Another era comes to a close. Incandescent light bulbs are banned by the govt as of 1/1/14.

Change is hard but sometimes necessary. They planned to transition to making energy efficient bulbs. Now the opportunity is lost for another business thriving in this area. Workers would rather cut off their nose to spite their face?

Twinkles were in the news lately too. How eats twinkles anymore? But employees wanted business as usual, unwilling to change.

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16Softball33(1 comment)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

GE (and their upper crust liberal leaders) is no friend of the Republican party. They are crony capitalists who, like those fine solar energy and other bankrupt "green" technologists, will probably line up in support of a carbon tax. The average person like you and I will end up paying higher electric bills. The Obama cronies will become millionaires on the other side of the "wealth" gap as our hard earned dollars flow to them through the utilities, who get their cut when they collect this hidden tax.
Also, the ones who voted against the concessions to keep the plant open voted against their union leadership, and subsequently against the workers who were willing to accept 90%+ of the loaf.

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17iBuck(226 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

GE is one of America's most glorious companies that pays exactly 0 (ZERO) in income taxes and is right there in the pockets of the left wingers. They did pay $50M into federal coffers in 2009... for fraud.

They're also big leaders and active promoters of off-shoring and cross-border bodyshopping since at least 1989, though they got a little quieter about it back around 2010, when pres. Obummer (a GE stock-holder) appointed his GE buddy Jeffrey Immelt to be jobs czar (Immelt also made generous donations to not-so right-wing GWBush).

And I am sooo glad the warmist hysterics got those 40W, 60W, 75W and 100W incandescent bulbs banned. I mean, how else would we get our daily dose of mercury to make us as wild and crazy as they are, and especially on a day like this, think of all that wasted heat in the house.

GE received 18K applications for 1200 jobs near Ann Arbor, MI in 2010. In 2007, GE's 'Careers India' employment web page crowed 'New R&D Center in Bangalore is integral to corporate goal of growth by innovation'.

Maybe these people could get jobs in GE's and Siemens's medical privacy violation business that has been ramping up; they were planning to invest over $2 billion in it according to an article last June.

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18JoeFromHubbard(1139 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Today's Vindy print edition had an ironic front page. Two side by side stories, one of life and the other of death.

The death of the Warren GE plant, forced by the unwillingness of the union workers to compromise and save the business.

The life of the Vallourec facility maintained by the cooperation of the work force.

Local labor has begun to recognize that cooperation rather than confrontation is the best practice to preserve employment.

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19billdog1(1804 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Are all you union bashers unable to read. The union leadership was for the concessions, for the change. The membership not the leadership voted it down. As far as NAFTA this company has moved its factories to China. China has nothing to do with NAFTA. When you make a statement at least make one with some facts in it. This entire situation is sad, beyond sad. It has hurt many a family and will trickle down to restaurants, stores, and other small businesses. These 200 jobs will effect at least another 400 jobs. This isn't a Democrat Republican issue. This is a problem throughout our country that is a business and trade issue. GE has always made a gross profit. It isn't even an issue of profit. It is extreme profits. As a nation we should not trade with nations that allow slave wages. As people we should boycott any product that comes from nations that allow slave wages. Somehow our country has lost solidarity, community, loving and carrying for our neighbor, and spends to much time blaming each other. Although I am not affiliated with GE, GM, or Packard and never worked in the still industry, attrition into other fields of work is coming to you soon no matter what your field is. Then who will you blame. It isn't always the employee. Basing it on the fact they make more than you is moronic.

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20JoeFromHubbard(1139 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

@ billdog:

The union leadership apparently failed to lead in this most unfortunate case.

I have not studied GE's financials in a few years but terms like "extreme profits" and "zero taxes" are misleading statements bandied about without proper understanding.

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21Attis(922 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

"All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he loves America yet hates labor, he is a liar; is any man tells you he trusts America yet fears labor, he is a fool".

"The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of family traditions, should be one uniting all working people of all nations, tongues and kindreds"

Just two quotes, folks, from the 16th POTUS, said about a generation before the GE plant in Warren opened, just to give you a little idea of how terribly far we have fallen into the abyss of corporate/politician greed creating colossal human need. But, happily, the fuse is getting shorter.

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22DontBanThisDrone(547 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

If I'm not mistaken...and if I am, someone please correct me...the language in the contract offer was that if the contract was approved, and the concessions were taken, the company promised to keep the plant open with no layoffs through 2014, meaning they could close it in 2015.

(-:

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23Georgio(26 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Good luck workers who voted to turn down the contract, hope you find a job that pays over ten dollars an hour.

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24cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

The richest 85 people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the worlds population. 85 people have as much wealth as 3.5 billion. Most of you people are rooting for the wrong side. Anyone who thinks those workers should step up and compete with Chinese labor to maximize the companies profit should do so yourself. When you go to work tell your boss you volunteer to work for Chinese wages to maximize the profits of the company you work for. Until you do so you shouldn't be volunteering others too.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin...

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2576Ytown(1309 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

We want the highest wages but buy "made in China". As a consumer, the next time you shop, look for made in America. Hard to find and it may cost more but it's the first step to saving jobs. As the Chinese grow their middle class, American goods become more in demand but our small and medium businesses need to be able to compete in the world market.

In 1975 our US exports exceeded imports by $12,400 million. In 2013 our deficit was over 34 billion dollars. When container ships come here full to the brim and return to China empty we have a problem.

We want the highest wages but buy "made in China". As a consumer, the next time you shop, look for made in America. Hard to find and it may cost more but it's the first step to saving jobs. As the Chinese grow their middle class, American goods become more in demand but our small and medium businesses need to be able to compete in the world market.

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26cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months ago

eivo....george w. bush signed the law to ban incandescent light bulbs in 2007 with the ban to go into effect jan. 1, 2014. You're welcome.

http://www.latimes.com/business/money...

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27cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months ago

bush signed the light bulb ban because he was for it. oh, and the light bulbs don't cost $12.00, they cost far less and last many times longer than the old bulbs. You live in a world of fantasy and delusions.

ge didn't close that plant because they couldn't keep it open if a couple hundred workers didn't take a pay cut. They closed it out of sheer greed. Some empty suit in some office somewhere disregarded the decades of hard work and loyalty of those couple of hundred workers because the numbers on his piece of paper said screw those workers, move to china.

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28cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months ago

Enjoy your well light bunker.

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29JoeFromHubbard(1139 comments)posted 11 months ago

Gentlemen:

That was an old facility which probably added little to the bottom line of corporate GE.

What happened was in the works for some time. A combination of damage from environmentalists and outdated but still loved technology.

The same applied to the steel mills of Youngstown.

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30polhack(129 comments)posted 11 months ago

That pipe line you're so hot for is routed to seaports not to provide energy independence here, but to ship the product overseas where they can sell it for more than in the U.S.

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31RustOnMyBelt(119 comments)posted 11 months ago

A plant that put food on the table for many families in the valley.Families that spent expendable income at shops,restaurants,theaters,home improvement stores, athletic events and gave to the less fortunate ... not to mention the taxes that are gone for roads,schools,etc. It wasn't political.It wasn't the unions it was GREED on the part of a mega-international company.This company could have refurbished the old G.E plant to make the new bulbs.It would have championed the case for keeping American jobs here and they chose not to. Had it been a purely union-based reason, they could have relocated to any other state where there are no unions.This was plain and simple greed from the word "go".Anyone who says otherwise is grinding an axe for their own agenda.

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32JoeFromHubbard(1139 comments)posted 11 months ago

The term "greed" seems to be popular these days but who actually is being "greedy?"

If you have a 401-k retirement plan, you probably own a piece of many of those greedy companies.

Do you want to retire with some security?
You better hope those companies strive for the most efficient and profitable operation possible.

You get the point, don't you?

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33cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months ago

joe....you need to read the link in post 32 a few times. Pricks like the ones that shipped those jobs overseas don't pass those savings on to the shareholders, they give themselves bigger bonuses. One of those people that lost their job would probably have to work a thousand years to earn what the CEO pays himself in one year.

You're one of the people that's rooting for the wrong side.

You get the point, don't you?

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34cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months ago

joe....sorry my bad the link was in post 26. Here it is.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin...

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35cambridge(3109 comments)posted 11 months ago

eivo....why do you keep telling that same lie that the light bulbs cost $12.00? Don't you realize you're telling that lie to people that are paying $3.50 for the bulb?

High efficiency light bulbs might be more expensive up front, however, they last longer and are cheaper to operate.

You would need 30 incandescent bulbs to last the 20-year lifetime of just one LED bulb. It would also cost nearly $200 over two decades to operate incandescents, while the LED would cost $21 in the same amount of time.

Read all about it.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/12/3...

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3676Ytown(1309 comments)posted 11 months ago

Best to use LEDs instead of CFLs which contain mercury, creating health and environmental dangers. LEDs have their own safety issues so not sure why this is all considered green energy except for energy usage. The cost of the bulbs is high, but energy savings are rapidly recouped.

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37NilesOhio(766 comments)posted 11 months ago

@Evio - Home Depot does that, and I bought the more expensive Cree LED lights. Cree is made in North Carolina, so it's not like many of the others made overseas. True, it doesn't employ people in our area but at least it's domestic.

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38JoeFromHubbard(1139 comments)posted 11 months ago

@ Cambridge:

I looked at the link to the Forbes article. It finally came up after all of Mr. Forbes' excessive advertisements which is one of the reasons I finally dropped my subscription. By the way, Steve's "Capitalist Tool" is in a bit of trouble itself.

I'm not sure of which article you are referring, the one on 401-k or the extreme wealth of a few.

I would be far more concerned with the fact that traditional pension plans are being dropped and replaced by the 401-k. That saves companies a lot of money but puts the burden of income squarely on retirees.

It happened to me and it is not desirable.

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39YtownParent(350 comments)posted 11 months ago

eivo's at it again. He swears the light bulbs are $12 because that's what the electric companies charged on the bills for providing them. By his own admission he bought the cheap $1.00 iridescent at the dollar store and didn't even bother to look at the price tag of other bulbs or factor in the cost on his electric bill. I'm sure he'll post he bought then at Wal-Mart not the dollar store, even though he's stated in other threads he doesn't shop there, so I'll point out all department and home improvement stores have charged $3 or more for light bulbs since last century.

None of us are surprised that eivo blames Obama for a law that Bush passed and I'm not surprised that he blames "liberal tree huggers" either. The fact is the iridescent ban was enacted with Democratic and Republican support as a way to cut down electric usage and save on the amount of natural gas being used at power plants and cut the costs of consumers gas bills. Democrats and Republicans sold it to their respective sheeple of CNN, MSNBC & Fox News knowing full well that they were cutting natural gas consumption here in the US so the suppliers would have more gas to sell oversees at a higher price.

Eivo believes this will all be solved once Obama approves the Keystone pipeline, completely overlooking all the things that have to happen for it to go in after Obama approves it. First, the landowners have to let the pipes go through their property. That is looking more and more less likely to happen in large parts of Missouri, Minnesota, and Kentucky. If does get made and becomes operational, the Keystone gas is only going to be sold overseas.

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40YtownParent(350 comments)posted 11 months ago

Now that I've dealt with the tangent, back to the original article. It's sad for the workers who wanted to keep their jobs. Unfortunately those who voted against the unions advice because they were unwilling to make any concessions in their retirement packages failed to learn from the history of the steel mills. If they had looked into how much of their retirement benefits those retired steel workers still have today, the GE workers would have found the answer is not much, if any.

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41YtownParent(350 comments)posted 11 months ago

Your blind allegiance to anything a party pundit says is sad eivo. You'd drink the poison kool-aid if Obama said not to. The plant closed down because it was of no use to the company's direction. No one is forcing you to buy any light bulb. You're perfectly free to continue to purchase and use whatever light bulb you like off the shelf. Or a flashlight. Or a candle.

So all the Republican Bush & Romeny supporting NRA member hunting and fishing farmer and rancher landowners that don't want oil company pipes or now Liberal tree huggers because they don't want to use their property the way you think they should use it?

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42YtownParent(350 comments)posted 11 months ago

"I blame the liberal tree huggers for this because that where the blame belongs.
They are the same reason that the Keystone pipeline has not been approved and everyone knows it."

The biggest group of people against it are the landowners who are refusing to allow the Keystone pipeline to cut through their property. The largest segment in the Kentucky which the Marcellus Shale branch would cut through. Most of these people are self proclaimed conservative Republicans, not tree hugging liberals. So are you just calling them tree hugging liberals because that's the party line or because they don't want to use the land they own (and pay taxes on) the way you think they should.

As for jobs, the only jobs the pipeline would create are temporary construction jobs. The real jobs in shale are in the extraction and manufacturing of fuel. 4,000 plus of which have already been created without a pipeline.

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43walter_sobchak(1982 comments)posted 11 months ago

GE is no friend of the USA, its citizens or its workers. It is a multi-national behemoth that has skewed the game for its own profits by buying all the politicians like Don Corleone has like so many nickels and dimes in his pockets. It is organized corporate crime. I stopped buying their products long ago. Unfortunately, they will be the last one standing and we will have little choice. GE was instrumental in having the LAWS adopted by Congress to eliminate incandescent light bulbs. This way, they could close old, out-of-date plants with higher paid workers. Then, since CFL's require mercury and special glass, they GE says they are forced to locate production overseas where the EPA can't touch them. Oh, and the workers make much less.

Anyone that doesn't take advantage of CFL's and LED's for normal everyday lighting is wasting money. However, there are still needs for incandescents, such as cold areas, worklights, special fixtures. We should be free in this country to manufacture and sell them because they are hardly a threat to us.

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44YtownParent(350 comments)posted 11 months ago

My bad eivo. I confused the Blue Grass pipeline with the Key Stone as you were touting its benefits to US jobs. You're right the Keystone pipeline has nothing to do with Marcellus shale, it would serve the Canadian shale industry and their job markets (which is why Obama has a say in it.) I don't care about foreign jobs and foreign businesses. I'm more concerned about the jobs it would make here in America & the valley. Whomever is in office should put more attention into our shale industry first. Any projects that benefit foreign nations and their economies, however close we are as allies, should be secondary.

In the interest of being Fair & Balanced you & Fox News should point out what the "liberal tree huggers" are for as well as what they are against. Those groups, like The Sierra Club, Adobon, Greenpeace, etc. are not for wind & solar farms anymore than they are for the gas industry. They are for nuclear power plants. Nuclear is cleaner and safer than gas. It's creates more cheaper energy. And it creates more jobs here in America. Yeah, I'm with the tree huggers. Nuke the gas moguls!

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45dontbeafool(1101 comments)posted 11 months ago

We don't need a pipeline running through our country. What we need is some new oil refineries! I think the last one built was in the 70's.

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46YtownParent(350 comments)posted 11 months ago

Ah ha! That explains this weather. eivo & I agree on something, which can only mean hell froze over. :-)

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47dontbeafool(1101 comments)posted 11 months ago

Eivo was outraged when they went from oil lamps to the light bulb too. So in time, he will get over this tragedy too.

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48dontbeafool(1101 comments)posted 11 months ago

You remember that first hand, don't you? They banned leaded gas at the pumps too Eivo. They don't make house paint with lead in it either. Asbestos insulation? Things change, times change, technology changes. Just about the only thing that doesn't change is YOU.

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492muchtax(420 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I know from experience that GE Promotes moving work out of the country and does not like how much US workers make! I try to buy American items especially if they are not made by GE! Obama wake up and put a stop to these very large companies doing everything, even shady things to not pay US taxes!

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