In 1886, Thomas Edison moved the Edison Machine Works from New York City to Schenectady, New York because of lower labor costs and land prices. The Edison Machine Works merged with several other Edison companies in 1889, forming Edison General Electric. A merger with the Thomson-Houston Electrical Company in 1892 created the General Electric Company (GE), and the plant became known as the General Electric Schenectady Works, which served as the company’s headquarters. GE Schenectady Works expanded rapidly during the first half of the 20th Century to include nearly 250 buildings on 628 acres of land. During World War II, and during the company’s peak production years, the plant employed nearly 40,000 people. Numerous electrical products were manufactured at GE Schenectady, including turbine generators, electronic components, electric motors, consumer electrical goods and electrical wire.
In recent years, the Schenectady plant has decreased its production due to GE’s outsourcing of jobs to locations with substantially lower labor costs and occupational safety standards. Many of the buildings that employed thousands of workers during the past century have been demolished. A notable exception is Building 273, which is home to GE’s Large Steam Turbine Generator Division. As one of the largest manufacturing buildings in the world, Building 273 manufactures massive steam turbines and generators for electrical utility customers worldwide.
Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into insulating materials utilized at GE Schenectady. Pipe covering, block insulation, gaskets, insulating cement and packing material contained asbestos. When asbestos-containing materials were removed or applied, asbestos dust and fibers became airborne, which workers inhaled. Most workers were completely unaware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust, and they performed their work without masks or protective gear.
Buildings throughout the GE Schenectady plant were heated by steam radiators. Steam was produced in the powerhouses (Buildings 13, 61 and 265), and it was delivered to the buildings through an underground network of pipes. During repairs to the steam system, workers removed asbestos-containing pipe covering, insulating cement and block insulation in order to access the equipment. When repairs were completed, new asbestos insulation was applied. In order to prevent leaks, pump shafts and valve stems within the steam system were wrapped with asbestos-containing packing material. During maintenance procedures, workers pulled the used packing material out of the pump or valve using a corkscrew-like device called a packing puller. New packing material was then cut to the proper length and installed. Removing and applying asbestos-containing materials gave rise to high levels of asbestos-containing dust, which workers inhaled.
In the process of representing workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information on the type and variety of asbestos-containing products to which our clients were exposed. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at General Electric in Schenectady, New York and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us regarding your legal rights.