President-elect Trump launches attack on US trade unions

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AN Indianapolis trade union leader has been receiving threats after US president-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter to attack him on Wednesday night.

Trump twice tweeted about United Steelworkers Local 1999 and its president, Chuck Jones on Wednesday, saying Jones has done a ‘terrible job’ representing workers and that the union should ‘spend more time working’.

Trump tweeted: ‘Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!’ Further, Trump tweeted: ‘If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.’

Jones, a union leader in Indianapolis, represents the Carrier workers whose jobs Donald Trump has pledged to save. He said the sudden attention from the country’s next leader didn’t feel real. ‘My first thought was, well, that’s not very nice, then, well, I might not sleep much tonight.’

Local 1999 represents workers from Carrier Corp. and Rexnord Corp., both companies with Indianapolis locations that have announced plans to close Indianapolis plants and move operations to Mexico. Carrier announced those plans – then affecting more than 1,000 union workers – in February, while Rexnord made its announcement affecting 300 in October.

Jones had previously criticised Trump’s campaign promises to keep Carrier and the affected jobs in Indianapolis. Since the election result he has continued to be outspoken with his criticisms of the deal, saying earlier this week that Trump ‘lied his arse off’ during his presidential campaign.

Jones said on Wednesday night that he has been getting threats since the tweets from people he said were Trump supporters. ‘Calling me names, wanting to know if I have children,’ he said. ‘I better watch out for myself, and they know what kind of car I drive, that I better watch out for my kids. Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids, We know what car you drive, things along those lines.’

Jones said that the first tweet was evidence to him that he was doing his job well.

‘First of all, that means I’m doing, and we’re doing, as labour representatives, the best we can for the people to give them a living wage and good benefits,’ Jones said. ‘No, what he says, that don’t bother me.’

Trump visited Carrier’s west-side facility last week after it was announced that the incoming administration has reached a deal with the furnace manufacturer, keeping the Indianapolis plant open and saving more than 1,000 jobs.

As part of the deal, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Carrier up to $5 million in conditional tax credits, plus up to $1 million in training grants to support workforce development and another $1 million in tax credits if the company continues to invest in the Indianapolis location.

Jones said he took issue with Trump trying to take credit for saving 1,100 union jobs at Carrier, while the number of jobs retained is actually just 730. Altogether, about 600 layoffs are expected in mid-2017. After layoffs, Carrier’s Indianapolis plant will have about 800 manufacturing workers and 300 engineering employees.

‘What he did was he gave false hope for three days to people that worked in that facility that they might not lose their job,’ said Jones. Jones brushed off the attack on the union and accused Trump of being once again wrong in his claims. ”We offered up $23 million per year in concessions,’ he said. ‘But the company wanted to save $65 million, so it turned down that offer,’ Jones said.

‘He don’t know, once again, what in the hell he’s talking about,’ Jones said. Jones reiterated that if Trump had blamed the loss of the jobs on the union and its workers during the presidential election campaign, as he appeared to be doing in his second tweet, he would have lost votes.

‘I’m going to assume that some of them would have thought twice before they would have voted for Mr. Trump,’ Jones declared. ‘The whole thing is ridiculous.’ He added that in order for Carrier to have saved that $65 million, workers would have to be paid $5 an hour, below minimum wage, and would go without benefits.

But until Trump acknowledges that he wasn’t telling the whole truth, Jones said he’s going to keep calling him out on what he says are ‘falsehoods.’ ‘I’m not backing up on my position one iota,’ Jones said. ‘He’s wrong, and I’m right.’

If Trump decides he wants to continue his work to save union jobs at Carrier and Rexnord, Jones said he would be open to working with Trump and his team, despite disagreements. ‘When it comes to people’s livelihoods, I think everybody has to put everything aside,’ Jones said.

Jones said he believes Trump had lied to the Carrier workers last week when he visited the Indianapolis plant. ‘On a makeshift stage in a conference room, Trump had applauded United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, for cutting a deal with him and agreeing to keep 1,100 jobs that were slated to move to Mexico in America’s heartland. ‘He lied his arse off,’ Jones claimed.

Carrier, he said, had agreed to preserve 800 production jobs in Indiana. (Carrier has confirmed that number). The union leader said Trump appeared to be taking credit for rescuing 350 engineering positions that were never scheduled to leave. Five hundred fifty of his members, he said, were still losing their jobs. And the company was still collecting millions of dollars in tax breaks.

In return for downsizing its move south of the border, United Technologies would receive a total $7 million in tax credits from Indiana, to be paid in $700,000 installments each year for 10 years. Carrier, on top of that, has agreed to invest $16 million in its Indiana operation.

United Technologies, meanwhile, still plans to shuttle 700 factory jobs from Huntington, Indiana, to Monterrey, Mexico. Jones, who said the union wasn’t involved in the negotiations, said he’s working to lift his members’ spirits. He said he didn’t have time to worry about Trump. ‘He needs to worry about getting his Cabinet filled,’ he said, ‘and leave me the hell alone.’