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The Radio Corporation of America was founded in 1919 as a partnership between General Electric, Westinghouse, and several other firms. Its original mission was to act as a centralized point for the various investors to merge their individual patents and skills to keep the United States in a leadership role in wireless technology in the aftermath of World War I.
In 1940 RCA moved a major manufacturing plant from Camden, NJ to Bloomington. The 1.5 million square foot RCA plant, although originally planned to build radios, was converted to televisions when that technology became viable, and when the first television came off the line on September 6, 1949, "TV Day" was declared in Bloomington. The plant was located on south Rogers Street, and produced more than 65 million televisions over the next 50 years. The factory employed over 8,000 workers at its peak, roughly 2% of the entire Bloomington workforce, and also provided many jobs for industries servicing the plant. Sarkes Tarzian, Inc. was among these. For a while, Bloomington called itself the "Color Television Capital of the World".
Labor unrest began to swirl in the 1960's. In 1964 5000 workers walked off the job over the protest of both management and union leaders. After a week, a new contract was approved and the workers returned to the assembly lines; but in October of 1966 the workers stuck again, claiming the company was in violation of the union contract, and several violent scuffles were reported. In 1967 a third, rather disorganized strike also took place.
In 1968, over 2000 people were laid off; mostly the young female workers that were considered to be most skilled at the delicate work of assembling televisions on the line.
RCA was bought by General Electric in 1986, then immediately sold to the French company Thomson SA, and rumors of the plant closing immediately began. On April 1, 1998, the last television rolled off the line and Thomson moved the plant to Juarez, Mexico, where RCA had had a small plant as early as 1968.
The ground that the plant was on is currently occupied by Cook Pharmica.
- Documentary on youtube on RCA TV production
Cowie, Jefferson (1999). Capital Moves, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-3525-0