Midwest industrial workers demand Trump act to save jobs

Midwest industrial workers demand Trump act to save jobs, just as he promised during last year’s campaign. Their solution: A ban on federal contracts to firms – such as Verizon and GE – that offshore their jobs.

WASHINGTON—As far as Chuck Jones is concerned, when Donald Trump talks about keeping good jobs in the U.S., he’s a liar.

And the same sentiments – though not in those same words – were shared by Chris Shelton, Robert James, Matt McCracken and more than 100 other workers who jammed a Capitol Hill hearing room. And they won’t change their minds unless and until Trump acts.

All Trump must do is issue an executive order banning federal contracts to firms that offshore and outsource U.S. jobs to gain ever-higher profits, they said. Offshoring in pursuit of dollars is what Carrier did, and GE, too. And so have dozens of other big federal contractors.

Jones and other unionists from the Steelworkers, the Communications Workers and the United Electrical Workers rode a bus from late August through Labor Day through the Midwestern swing states – Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio, plus red state Indiana – whose voters provided the crucial margin to put Trump in the Oval Office last November. The bus ended in D.C. on Sept. 19.

They brought the story of how Trump, now the GOP president, has broken his jobs promises to the union and non-union voters. Now they’ve brought it to Congress.

Before that, Jones gained national renown after the election, as then-President of Steelworkers Local 1999 in Indianapolis, he challenged Trump’s claim of a successful deal with United Technologies, parent firm of the Carrier plant in Indianapolis whose workers the local represents, to save 1,100 jobs from moving to Mexico.

As it turns out, only 730 were saved, along with 70 non-union jobs. Another 338 Carrier workers lost their jobs since then, with 261 more scheduled to be let go three days before this coming Christmas. And Trump’s big deal announcement? “A dog and pony show,” Jones said.

Trump could stop all such outsourcing, said Jones, Communications Workers President Shelton, James – Jones’ successor at Local 1999 — and McCracken, whose United Electrical Workers Local 506 represents GE locomotive plant workers in Erie, Pa.

And it’s not just industrial jobs. Shelton noted two big outsourcers – and federal contractors – are the telecom giants AT&T and Verizon. They’ve exported U.S. call center jobs to developing nations where workers earn a few dollars an hour, or a day, he said.

“I don’t want to get real repetitious, but the bottom line is these jobs are leaving this country,” said Jones, at the indoor press conference punctuated with chants from the busload of workers of “Good jobs now!” and “No outsourcing!”

“He’s got to live up to his campaign promises” to keep jobs in the U.S., “or he’s a liar,” Jones declared.

But it’s not just Carrier and United Technologies. Many firms that outsource U.S. jobs, especially to exploit cheap labor overseas, still get hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts, even under Trump, speakers said.

In another case, the highly profitable GE conglomerate, now in bargaining with the Communications Workers and the United Electrical Workers, moved its business manufacturing locomotives for the U.S. market from Erie to Monterrey, Mexico, several years ago, said McCracken.

Now it wants to move its business making locomotives for the international market from Erie to India. Not only does it want to increase profits, but also keep escaping U.S. taxes, speakers noted. And unions, he added.

His plant used to have 15,000 workers, McCracken said in an informal talk afterwards. Now it’s down to 3,000 and after the move, his local will represent 1,000 there. The plant also has several hundred R&D workers and engineers. Since the Erie plant is the world’s most-efficient locomotive factory, McCracken says GE’s real goal of the move “is to bust the union.”

At Carrier, Jones explained that then-president-elect Trump and then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice-president-elect, met United Technologies officials before the open-air rally where Trump announced the deal. Trump used the 1,100-job figure in that closed-door session, too. Local 1999 officials were there, but didn’t get a chance to speak afterwards.

Jones asked a key question, though: The details.

The response was the deal saved 730 jobs on the assembly line and 70 administrative jobs elsewhere. “Where are the other 300?” Jones asked. Those jobs, it turned out, were Carrier white-collar jobs the firm planned to keep in Indianapolis anyway, even after it stopped producing furnaces. And Pence and Indiana promised Carrier a multimillion-dollar tax break.

The blue-collar workers Jones represented made $20-$25 hourly, plus overtime, he explained. They had good benefits through the union contract “and made a decent living” at both the Carrier plant and at Rexnord, another factory just blocks away that his local also represents – and that UTC is also closing and moving the Mexico. Trump promised to save that plant, too. He hasn’t.

“Now, because of corporate greed and unfair trade treaties, they’ve been taken away. We can’t compete with Mexican workers earning $3 an hour and getting exploited” by Carrier and United, too, Jones said.

Carrier workers who got pink slips last year now make $11 an hour “serving french fries” at fast-food restaurants. “Their cars are repossessed. They lose their homes. Some lose their spouses. It’s terrible when that happens while United gets $6 billion in military contracts,” while its CEO earns millions, “and while they’re taking another 500 jobs out of Indianapolis and 1,700 more out of Huntington.

“Trump’s gotta stop it or – and I stand by my comments – he’s a liar.”

“Donald Trump said he’d stand up for us, but he’s nowhere to be found,” added James, Jones’ successor as the local union president and a fellow Carrier worker. “We saw what he did at Carrier – he BSed people,” CWA’s Shelton declared.

Other speakers put the industrial job losses in the wider context of rising income inequality, job-destroying “free trade” pacts, especially NAFTA, or both.

“During the campaign, Trump promised to stop corporations from shipping jobs overseas. But as president, over 140,000 Americans have received pink slips due to offshoring. We kicked-off the Pickup Tour to highlight this hypocrisy,” said Good Jobs Nation, which sponsored the bus tour and the D.C. press conference.

“Trump has signed more than 100 executive orders, but he still hasn’t picked up his pen to stop rewarding corporations that ship our jobs overseas with lucrative federal contracts.”

“Corporations like GE play communities off against each other,” UE President Peter Knowlton added. “Donald Trump has done nothing but sow hate and fear and division.”

“You’re doing what has to be done,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., who was with the workers at the start of the bus tour in Indianapolis and at the end, in D.C. He told the workers he fired off a letter to Trump demanding the president keep his promises.

 “At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, you’re rallying to demand we have a government that listens to the 99 percent and not to campaign contributors who are the 1 percent….He promised the Carrier workers not one single job would be moved.”

Source: PAI

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