General Electric on parole

Victory appears to have been won over General Electric, which has been extensively boycotted for their involvement in the nuclear industry

By Brian Burch

On November 24th, business columns were filled with the news that G.E. had sold its aerospace division-the wing that manufactures all its nuclear weapons components-to Martin Marietta Corporation for U.S. $3.05 billion and two seats on the Board of Directors. This "economic decision" shows the strength of the Boycott G.E. campaign, and provides a major example of a grassroots organizing success. While two key demands are still to be positively addressed, moving a corporation like G.E. out of the nuclear arms industry is an opportunity for rejoicing in the streets! The G.E. Boycott's campaign called upon G.E. to:

G.E. has yet to quit its lobbying for the continued production and development of weapons of mass destruction, and its involvement with more conventional ways of killing people, such as helicopter engine work for the Canadian military.

So the boycott of G.E. is still on. We've achieved the major demand, but it's one that was easy for G.E. Changing its attitude is much harder but that is the ongoing focus. If G.E. can be convinced that profit from war is going to endanger its profits from individual consumers, they will join peaceful conversion efforts.

The boycott of G.E. is not a new phenomenon. Since The National Boycott News brought the boycott to the attention of activists around the world in 1989, over 4,000,000 persons and 200 organizations have endorsed the call to end G.E.'s involvement in the nuclear weapons industry. Voice of Women, The Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, The Alliance for Non-Violent Action, ACT for Disarmament, and The Bread & Roses Credit Union were among the early endorsers. Recently, university organizations such as The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (Toronto) and The Student Christian Movement (at Toronto and Mount Allison) have pressed for Canadian universities to join the University of California at Berkeley in ceasing to buy G.E. products and ending joint research campaigns with them until the boycott is over.

G.E. is not just a peace movement concern. In 1988 The American Federation of Labor called for a boycott of G.E. due to anti-labor actions. It has laid off some 35,000 unionized workers in Canada and the U.S. and hired over 30,000 people in non-unionized, lowwage areas in the third world.

The United Church of Christ may have provided the final push when they endorsed the boycott and added their hospitals to the many medical facilities that are not buying G.E. productions such as CAT-Scans until G.E. stops making weapons this past summer. As only 13% of its revenue comes from military production, growing consumer and medical boycott efforts have a real impact on G.E. The winning, this year, of the Academy Award for the INFACT (U.S.) produced video expose on General Electric, "Deadly Deception," can not be overestimated-especially since filmmaker Debra Chasnoff's cry "Boycott G.E!" was broadcast to millions of people during the awards ceremony.

Martin Marietta, which has been the leader in satellite and missile work for the U.S. military and is heavily involved in the International Space University, has taken over the building of nuclear weapons components from G.E. However, G.E. and the arms industry have been shown that they can't ignore consumers. If they want our dollars, they have to change and they will change!

For more information on the G.E. Boycott, contact ACT For Disarmament, 736 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 2R4. 416-531-6154.

Peace Magazine Jan-Feb 1993

Peace Magazine Jan-Feb 1993, page 23. Some rights reserved.

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