Democracy Dies in Darkness

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Donald Trump insulted a union leader on Twitter. Then the phone started to ring.

By Danielle Paquette

December 7, 2016 at 10:15 PM

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Chuck Jones, an Indianapolis union president, is in the national spotlight after President-elect Donald Trump insulted him on Twitter. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

Chuck Jones uses a flip phone, so he didn't see the tweet. His friend of 36 years called him Wednesday night and said: The president-elect is smearing you on Twitter.

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,' " he told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. "Then, 'Well, I might not sleep much tonight.' "

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The Washington Post's Libby Casey and Danielle Paquette sit down, Dec. 8, with Chuck Jones, the Indianapolis union leader who President-elect Donald Trump attacked on Twitter. (The Washington Post)

Jones, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999, told The Post on Tuesday that he believed 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.

Jones said Trump got that figure wrong.

Related: [He ‘lied his a– off': Carrier union leader on Trump’s big deal]

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The Post's Fact Checker took a closer look at the claims President-elect Donald Trump made during a speech in Indiana on Dec. 1, about the deal to keep jobs at a Carrier plant there that were due to be shipped to Mexico. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Carrier, he said, had agreed to preserve 800 production jobs in Indiana. (Carrier 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 $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, Ind., 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."

Related: [I’m the union leader Donald Trump attacked. I’m tired of being lied to about our jobs.]

Representatives for Trump did not respond to The Post's requests for comment.

Over the past two decades, the United States has lost about 4.5 million manufacturing jobs, a consequence economists ascribe to trade and automation. Jones said he has fought to keep work on U.S. soil, bargaining repeatedly with Carrier and Rexnord, another Indianapolis plant that plans to relocate jobs to Mexico.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence tweeted his support for Jones earlier this year:

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader's phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We're coming for you.

He wasn't sure how these people found his number. 

"Nothing that says they're gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids," Jones said later on MSNBC. "We know what car you drive. Things along those lines."

"I've been doing this job for 30 years, and I've heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me," he added. "So I take it with a grain of salt and I don't put a lot of faith in that, and I'm not concerned about it and I'm not getting anybody involved. I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on."

Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, called Jones after Trump's tweet caught his eye. Jones, he said, had just left his office in Indianapolis, where he manages the needs of about 3,000 union members.

"This guy makes pennies for what he does," Voorhies said. "What he has to put up with is just crazy. Now he's just got the president-elect smearing him on Twitter."

More from Wonkblog: 

Donald Trump's deal to create 50,000 jobs in America looks a lot different on Day Two

Trump takes aim at drug companies: 'I don't like what has happened with drug prices'

How repealing Obamacare would punish the working class

Donald Trump's deal to create 50,000 jobs in America looks a lot different on Day Two


Danielle Paquette is a reporter covering the intersection of people and policy. She’s from Indianapolis and previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

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