WINDSOR, Vt., Jan. 21 - President Obama today named Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric, to lead the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
The GE chiarman has been outspoken about job growth - not in the United States but in China. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hoped the appointment means Immelt has reformed his thinking.
"I hope he changes his mind and focuses on rebuilding the manufacturing sector here in the United States, not in China, and in the process creates millions of good-paying jobs," Sanders said during a visit to this once-thriving industrial community in Vermont's Connecticut River Valley.
"For the sake of our manufacturing sector and the collapsing middle class, let's hope that Mr. Immelt's appointment by President Obama indicates a transformation in his thinking," Sanders added. "It is time for GE and other large and profitable corporations to start investing in America again."
Since 2009, General Electric has closed more than 25 manufacturing plants in the United States and slashed thousands of jobs, according to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. GE now employs more workers overseas than it does in the United States. While GE has laid off at least 10,000 workers in the United States, it has created more than 30,000 jobs in India over the past decade.
In a Senate floor speech last month, Sanders discussed the disappearance of manufacturing jobs in the United States. During the 8 ½ hour speech, the senator cited a statement by Immelt at an investors' meeting on Dec. 6, 2002. Said Immelt: "When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China. You need to be there. You need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there. I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to $5 billion. We are building a tech center in China. Every discussion today has to center on China. The cost basis is extremely attractive."
Immelt's views were consistent with those of his predecessors at GE. Former CEO Jack Welch spoke in 2000 of the company's search for cheap labor: "Ideally, we'd have every plant we own on a barge." And Frank Doyle, a former GE executive vice president, was unusually blunt in a 1995 interview when he told BusinessWeek magazine about the company's workforce policies: "We did a lot of violence to the expectations of the American workforce....We downsized. We delayered. And we outsourced."
To watch Sanders discuss Immelt and jobs in China, click here.