Brown Presses GE-Savant for Answers as Company Lays off 81 Ohio Workers Amid Global Pandemic


Brown Wrote to GE-Savant Leadership in January, Urging the Company to Keep Jobs and High-Efficiency Lighting Production in Bucyrus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote to Robert Madonna, CEO of Savant, to press him for answers and a meeting after the company laid off 81 workers at its Bucyrus plant last week. Today’s letter follows a letter from Brown earlier this year asking the company to work with Bucyrus Mayor Jeff Reser, the city of Bucyrus and IUE-CWA Local 84704 to keep jobs and high-efficiency lighting production in Bucyrus. Brown also wrote to Walmart leadership, asking the company to get involved in local efforts to save high-efficiency lighting jobs at the GE-Savant plant in Bucyrus.

“This decision, by all reports, to shift production to factories in China is a short-sighted decision that fails to recognize the productivity of Bucyrus’s workforce and the opportunities provided by our nation’s commitment to increasing investment in domestic manufacturing,” wrote Brown.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this week, Brown continued to push for action and advocate on behalf of workers at the GE-Savant plant in Bucyrus and a tax code that supports American manufacturing. During the hearing, entitled ‘Made in America: Effect of the U.S. Tax Code on Domestic Manufacturing,’ Brown questioned expert Ohio witnesses on steps that can be taken to halt closures and layoffs like those in Bucyrus.

Brown’s full letter to Savant can be found HERE and below:

Dear Mr. Madonna:

As you know, Bucyrus, Ohio, has been home to the GE-Savant lighting plant for more than 60 years – providing good-paying, middle-class jobs in this close-knit, rural community. Your factory is a vital economic component for the region – supporting workers, families, and local businesses.  That is why I am so concerned about the devastating impact that any layoffs would have on this proud community, and it is why I joined local leaders to urge GE-Savant to continue production of the A-19 LED bulb there.  It is also why I am deeply disappointed that production ceased on Friday, and 81 workers had their separation completed on Saturday.

This decision, by all reports, to shift production to factories in China is a short-sighted decision that fails to recognize the productivity of Bucyrus’s workforce and the opportunities provided by our nation’s commitment to increasing investment in domestic manufacturing.

Since GE-Savant refused to consider my request that you work with the city and the union, IUE-CWA Local 84704, to undertake a joint labor management study examining ways save the plant, I have engaged with workers at your plant, the mayor of Bucyrus, Walmart’s CEO, and the Biden Administration about both short- and long-term steps we can take to restart production of the A-19 LED bulb at your Bucyrus facility.  GE-Savant’s refusal to join discussions on the continued operation of the plant speaks volumes.

I am particularly concerned as I believe that there is strong potential for sales of Made In USA green bulbs to both government agencies and the American public.

I ask that you sit down with me to discuss how to resume and grow production in Bucyrus.  I know that the workers, the city, Walmart and the Biden Administration stand ready to discuss potential steps to resume production.  To better understand your position, I ask that you respond to the following questions that can shed light on the decisions regarding the future of the A-19 production line and of the plant:

1)    In 2013, GE and Walmart announced that the high-efficiency A-19 LED bulb sold under Walmart’s own label would be produced in the United States in Bucyrus.  The decision to produce A-19 bulbs was met with considerable fanfare.[1]  It was also the result of careful planning and considerable investment.[2][3][4]  A long-term contract was entered into with Walmart, and millions of dollars were spent to update and modernize production.

a.     What led to the decision to cease domestic production?

b.     Did the Walmart contract terms change, altering the company’s profit margin?

c.     Did the financing of your purchase, necessitate a higher profit margin to break even?

d.     After your purchase of GE Lighting your negotiators told union leaders that Walmart refused to pay enough for the A 19 Bulb to allow you to make a profit. Walmart told the Mayor of Bucyrus two weeks ago that was not the case and GE Lighting never asked for a better price. Which report is accurate?

e.     Did the company engage outside consultants on the rumored decision to outsource the manufacture of these lightbulbs?  If so, what was their assessment?

2)    In May 2020, Savant acquired General Electric’s lighting division, and a GE spokesman asserted that “[o]nce the deal closes, GE Lighting will be a Savant Company and we will still operate as we do today.”[5]  Within a year of buying GE Lighting, your company decided to halt domestic production of the A-19 bulb in the United States – a decision that culminated in the cessation of production on March 5, 2021.  This is an exceedingly short timeframe in which to make such a weighty decision.

a.     When were concerns raised about the continued feasibility of A-19 LED bulb production in Ohio?

b.     Was this decision to made prior to Savant’s acquisition?  If not, when was decision to close the line made?

3)    General Electric operated the Bucyrus plant for over six decades.  The plant’s operations and relationships with other GE-Savant factories were well understood.

a.     Would investments in automation improve productivity in Bucyrus?  If so, how much would those investments costs?

b.     According to the local union leadership, LED filaments are made in China.  However, one machine used to manufacture LED filaments was in the process of assembly when GE-Savant ceased LED production. Why did this change of plans occur, and what steps would be required to move production of filaments and final LED assembly to the U.S.?

c.     Would investments in other GE-Savant facilities support domestic lightbulb production?  What would those investments look like?

d.     The Bucyrus plant used to make glass for bulbs.  That glass is now manufactured in Hungary. What would it take to move production of all components for these bulbs back to Ohio and thus ensure a robust manufacturing operation in your Bucyrus and Logan, Ohio plants?

4)    Currently, Walmart is the only U.S. retailer purchasing U.S.-made LED bulbs.

a.     Would it benefit domestic production if Walmart purchased more bulbs?

b.     Would it benefit production in Bucyrus if other retailers purchased U.S. made bulbs?

5)    President Biden has issued a number of Executive Orders that will help boost U.S. manufacturing and promote energy efficiency.

a.     Would the Administration’s Buy America, green energy, and domestic supply chain E.O.s assist with the line’s profitability?

6)    It is reported that, the General Electric planned to make 4′ and 8′ long LED bulbs in Bucyrus, but industrial production was sold, in 2018, to another facility that is, reportedly, now going out of business. The machinery for this production remains in Bucyrus.

a.     What steps can be taken to help GE-Savant move this production to Bucyrus?

7)    GE-Savant plans to move A-19 LED production to Top Star, a Chinese lightbulb production facility owned by the Chinese state-owned enterprise Xiamen Light Industrial Group Co., Ltd. Top Star’s website lists General Electric, not Savant, as a part owner of this facility.

a.     Which U.S. company owns a stake in Top Star – GE-Savant or General Electric?

b.     What role did GE-Savant and General Electric play in the decision to move production to China?

I remain ready to work with GE-Savant Lighting, IUE-CWA Local 84704, the City of Bucyrus, Walmart, the Biden Administration and other interested parties to restore and expand production in Bucyrus. I ask that you promptly reply to these questions by March 30, 2021, and contact my staff to arrange a meeting to discuss next steps.  It is my intention to host a meeting where all of the principals involved in the production, purchasing and sales of these bulbs can come together to work out a solution that benefits Ohio, America, and the climate. I will notify you, Lawrence Culp and Doug McMillon about this meeting shortly.


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