Hundreds Of Carrier Factory Jobs To Move To Mexico
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Even before he took the oath of office, then President-elect Trump made it his personal cause to get the Carrier furnace company in Indiana to keep more than a thousand of its jobs in the U.S.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And by the way, that number's going to go up very substantially as they expand this area of this plant. So the 1,100's going to be a minimum number.
MARTIN: Now that same Carrier plant is set to lay off hundreds of workers. For more on this, we are joined by Indiana Public Broadcasting reporter Annie Ropeik. Annie, are these the same jobs President Trump apparently saved back in December that are now on the chopping block?
ANNIE ROPEIK, BYLINE: Well, Rachel, it's kind of a mix. There is a little over 700 jobs at the factory that actually were saved from layoffs back in December. Another three or 400 of the jobs that are staying, though, are white-collar jobs like managers and things like that. And they were never in jeopardy. So when Trump cited that 1,100 jobs figure, he was counting both of those groups. So that leaves us with 632 workers who, as it turns out, are still going to lose their jobs as the company does continue to move some operations to Mexico as planned.
MARTIN: So that was always part of the plan and this is - they're just moving forward with those plans.
ROPEIK: That's right.
MARTIN: How are the workers at the plant feeling? Have you been able to talk with anyone there?
ROPEIK: Yeah. It sounds like morale is pretty low. They did know these layoffs were coming. And the factory has been shedding jobs off and on for years now. But I talked to David Simmons. He's a forklift driver who's worked at Carrier for 14 years, and he's not losing his job right now. But the layoffs are going to mean that he gets bumped down to an assembly line position that's more likely to get cut in any future layoffs at the factory, which David says he expects there will be.
DAVID SIMMONS: I'm not really optimistic that they're going to be around in another five years. I mean, I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see it. I mean, they've been threatening this - to go to Mexico - for at least 10 years.
ROPEIK: So David's wife, Elaine, actually works at Carrier, too, and she said the same thing. She'd hoped that Trump stepping in might change the company's behavior. But now she doesn't think that it will. And she actually doesn't blame the president for that. I think she and other workers actually feel more betrayed by their employer than by the president.
She told me she thinks Trump did everything he could, that he did save those 700 jobs. And for her, this is actually an opportunity to take a buyout that the company has offered to everyone. So she and about 140 other workers are going to retire early and get a week's pay for every year they've worked there, which, for her, works out to about four months' pay before taxes.
MARTIN: But when President Trump did this - negotiated this deal - I mean, he was giving Carrier some incentives for keeping those jobs in the U.S. So remind us what those were. And now, do those go away?
ROPEIK: That's right. So as far as we can tell, though, the details of the conversation between Trump and the factory executives still actually haven't been reported. The deal that the state of Indiana was offering Carrier to stay, which Trump seems to have convinced them to take, involves $7 million in tax breaks, which were conditional on some job training, on keeping those thousand and change people working in Indianapolis and on $16 million in investment at the factory.
The Indiana economic authority has already been voting to move those incentives forward. These 600-or-so layoffs were kind of part of that plan. The thousand or so people that are part of that incentives package are keeping their jobs. And that leaves these 600-or-so folks to still be laid off.
So as far as we know, those incentives are going forward. And we've also heard that some of that investment money will go toward automation, which workers like Elaine Simmons aren't really surprised by.
MARTIN: Yeah. So we're just six months out from all that - all the talk about those jobs saved - and now these layoffs. Why wasn't that reality clear those months ago?
ROPEIK: Well, I talked to the president of a United Steelworkers local. He worked at the factory for almost 20 years until he got appointed to that job. He thinks the president and Carrier actually share some blame for making it seem like there'd be more jobs saved than actually were. He just wishes they'd been honest with the numbers so that people wouldn't have had to think they might be able to keep their jobs, only to find out that they might still be on the chopping block.
MARTIN: Yeah. So when do these layoffs actually begin?
ROPEIK: The first round's July 20 and the second is just before Christmas. And after that, it's just kind of a wait-and-see for the remaining workers.
MARTIN: Annie Ropeik of Indiana Public Broadcasting. Thanks so much, Annie.
ROPEIK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.