Sunday, September 02

A brief look at GE's presence in Pittsfield through the years 1903: General Electric buys the William Stanley transformer plants in Pittsfield.

1912: Charles P. Steinmetz, GE mathematician and electrical theorist, urges the company to invest in "artificial resins," laying the groundwork for plastics business.

1916: First GE labor union strike: 3,200 workers walk out on Sept. 2, return on Oct. 2 after GE refuses to negotiate.

1931: GE Plastics is given "department" status within the company.

1943: GE's Pittsfield employment reaches an all-time high of 13,645.

1946: 62-day strike by the United Electrical Worker Union won an 18.5 cents per hour raise.

1954: GE closes its plastic molding operations in Pittsfield, choosing to concentrate on development of plastic materials instead of fabrication.

1953: Unions representing draftsmen walked out for 36 days.

1955: Daniel W. Fox invents Lexan, the first engineered plastic. Strong and durable enough to replace metal, it becomes the core of GE's plastics business.

1960s: Fox hires John F. Welch Jr. who works in — and eventually heads — the plastics department.

1961: The last of five convictions of former GE power transformer executives in Pittsfield handed down. They plead guilty to colluding with Westinghouse and other companies to set a minimum proce for power transformers.

1966: Unions representing draftsmen walked out for 62 days.

1969: 5,500 workers walk out to remain on strike for 102 days, the longest strike in GE history.

1973: Plastics grows from a department to a division within GE. It has roughly 600 employees, a small piece of GE's roughly 10,000 Pittsfield workers.

1981: Welch is named president and CEO of GE.

1985: 2,500 workers walk out over a dispute regarding the GE disciplinary policy.

1986: 2,600 employees strike over GE absentee policy.

1986: GE announces it is shutting most of its transformer plant. This hastens the decline of GE jobs in Pittsfield from roughly 7,000 to 3,600 over the next five years.

1987: 250 members of the IEU strike over the loss of white collar jobs.

1988: Arguably the height of GE Plastics, the division nears $5 billion in revenues, capping three straight years of record-setting profits.

1989: Fox, inventor of Lexan and holder of more than 40 patents, dies at age 65.

1992: GE sells its aerospace division to Martin Marietta, leaving GE Plastics, with 530 employees, its only Pittsfield business.

2001: Welch retires as president and CEO of GE. Jeff Immelt takes over.

2005: Charlene Begley named president and CEO of GE Plastics.

2007: GE reported to be seeking bids for its Plastics division reaches deal with Sabic Innovative Plastics for $11.6 billion.

Source: Eagle archives