Having your company’s chief executive get a seat at the table in the most powerful government in the world should thrill any shareholder into sleeplessness.
But it took less than a day for Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric (NYSE:GE), to open himself up to criticism from Congress. This time it comes from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who put out a statement saying he hopes the administration’s appointment of Immelt to replace former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker as head of an outside White House economic advisory panel means Immelt “has reformed his thinking.”
Specifically, the Vermont independent says in a statement that the GE chief executive has been outspoken about job growth, “not in the United States but in China.”
The Senator notes in his statement that GE has been steadily moving its manufacturing plants overseas. “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,” the senator said.
Sen. Sanders issued the statement after making a visit to an industrial community in Vermont’s Connecticut River Valley. GE didn’t return a call or an email asking for comment.
Sen. Sanders says that since 2009, General Electric has shuttered more than 25 manufacturing plants in the United States, cutting thousands of jobs, citing as his source the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
The senator also says in his statement “GE now employs more workers overseas than it does in the United States,” just as IBM purportedly does. Sen. Sanders adds in his statement that “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."
And the senator’s statement noted that, during an eight and a half hour speech last month, the senator cited these comments from Immelt made at an investors’ meeting on Dec. 6, 2002:
“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.”