Workers unable to save Bloomington GE plant

General Electric Co. said yesterday that ideas submitted by workers to make its Bloomington refrigerator plant competitive fell short, and that the plant will be shuttered by the end of next year.

Employees had tried since the initial closing announcement in January to find ways to make the plant more efficient.

GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman told The Herald-Times of Bloomington yesterday that “We just couldn’t close” the cost gap.

While Freeman said the plant suffered from rising material costs and falling demand for the side-by-side models it manufactures, Bill Mitchell, president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2249, said employees also couldn’t compete against the low-wage environment created by NAFTA.

The plant employs nearly 900 workers, 60 percent of whom can seek retirement packages when the plant closes.

GE said it gave workers a lengthy notice of the closing and will provide job counselors to help them find new jobs.

The Monroe County Economic Development Commission is considering a study of the potential for employees to own and operate the plant.

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