A nationwide boycott of General Electric consumer appliances was launched Thursday by a coalition of labor unions, religious groups and health associations opposed to the corporation's manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The campaign, which has the support of some of the firm's stockholders, seeks to halt GE's nuclear arms production and curtail the advertisement and promotion of weapons.
"General Electric is a critical hub in the nuclear weapons industry," INFACT coalition Executive Director Nancy Cole said. "This is a simple yet powerful step that people can take to help stop the production of nuclear weapons."
INFACT successfully waged a six-year boycott battle with the multinational Nestle Corp. over the firm's Third World infant formula marketing practices, resulting in the company's withdrawal of the formula from 40 developing nations in 1983.
Cole said her group eventually plans a worldwide boycott enlisting the aid of foreign contacts who were active in the Nestle campaign.
The first phase of GE boycott activities, scheduled in 39 cities and 22 states, will include a $100,000 media drive. The campaign features a television commercial depicting a GE refrigerator stocked with milk cartons labeled "RADIATION DANGER" while a voice calmly asks: "Isn't it time they really bring good things to life?"
At GE, spokesman Ford Slater responded to the boycott announcement with a statement saying: "We share a common objective with our critics, which is peace. Our disagreement is in the process by which our nation should proceed toward the objective of peace . . . . GE has decided to participate in the nation's defense activities because we believe it's the right thing to do to support our government."
$6 Billion in Contracts
Listed as the nation's 10th largest company, the Connecticut-based firm negotiated more than $6 billion in government defense contracts in 1985 for everything from aircraft engines to nuclear submarines, making it the nation's fourth-largest weapons contractor.
Pat Birney, head of the GE Stockholders' Alliance Against Nuclear Power, charged the firm with having "found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" in government defense contracts but vowed that "nuclear business will be bad for GE's business."
Birney refused to disclose the size of her organization or the amount of stock controlled by group members.
One GE spokesman, predicting that only a small number of stockholders would support the boycott, criticized coalition leaders for initiating the move without consulting the firm.