Posted at: 09/20/2013 6:03 PM
Updated at: 09/20/2013 6:45 PM
By: Bill Lambdin
A massive effort is underway to spare Washington County from the devastating shutdown of GE's Fort Edward plant. Union workers and local officials are trying to hammer out a plan to save 200 jobs from the chopping block.
The desire is certainly there. The problem -- General Electric hasn't laid out what it wants or even said there is something that it can be granted that will cause it to rescind the announcement that hit this week like a thunderclap in the Fort Edward area.
For ten years Fort Edward officials have been trying to fill the former Grand Union supermarket space almost directly across the street from the GE plant. Shrubs have sprouted and grown tall since last carts rolled through this parking lot. The town supervisor says they were close to working out a deal, then Wednesday’s announcement hit that GE was planning to shutdown here.
“(We were) close to to signing an agreement with him. He was going to have a tenant. I don't know who the tenant was but he was anxious about the contract. First thing Thursday morning I get a text from him, ‘Mitch, you need to do something. This could be the deal breaker’ so we need all the help we can get,” said Mitchell Suprenant, Fort Edward Town Supervisor.
Union leaders have just under 60 days to try to negotiate with GE management, searching to find the right concessions that would prevent the loss of 200 jobs here. Members of this task force that met with local worker leaders in Glens Falls on Friday afternoon don't want to interfere with the labor-management negotiations, but wanted to make it clear they stood ready to help in anyway they could to try to reverse the exit warning from the company.
“Our people in place that are really looking at the interests of our greater Glens Falls area so we're all on the same team and if we can move forward together cooperatively we'll do that,” said Ed Bartholomew, the Economic Development President.
The only significant player in this negotiation who wasn't there in person or through a representative was the party calling the shots, General Electric management. What it would take, if there is anything that could be supplied to keep GE operating their Fort Edward plant is not known.
Union leaders are going to try to find out what the magic conditions are during the 60 day window their contract provides to negotiate on decisions of this type but the clock is ticking.