The Secret Service agents told the Carrier workers to stay put, so Chuck Jones sat in the factory conference room for nearly three hours, waiting for president-elect Donald Trump. He’d grown used to this suspense.
Seven months earlier, at a campaign rally in Indianapolis, Trump had pledged to save the plant’s jobs, most of which were slated to move to Mexico. Then the businessman won the election, and the 1,350 workers whose paychecks were on the line wondered if he’d keep his promise.
Jones, president of the United Steelworkers 1999, which represents Carrier employees, felt optimistic when Trump announced last week that he’d reached a deal with the factory’s parent company, United Technologies, to preserve 1,100 of the Indianapolis jobs — until the union leader heard from Carrier that only 730 of the production jobs would stay and 550 of his members would lose their livelihoods, after all.
At the Dec. 1 meeting, where Trump was supposed to lay out the details, Jones hoped he would explain himself.
“But he got up there,” Jones said Tuesday, “and, for whatever reason, lied his a-- off.”
In front of a crowd of about 150 supervisors, production workers and reporters, Trump praised Carrier. “Now they’re keeping — actually the number’s over 1,100 people,” he said, “which is so great.”
Jones wondered why the president-elect appeared to be inflating the victory. Trump and Pence, he said, could take credit for rescuing 800 of the Carrier jobs, including nonunion positions.
Of the nearly 1,700 workers at the Indianapolis plant, however, 350 in research and development were never scheduled to leave, Jones said. Another 80 jobs, which Trump seemed to include in his figure, were nonunion clerical and supervisory positions. (A Carrier spokesman confirmed that 800 factory jobs once earmarked for Mexico are staying.) And now the president-elect was applauding the company and giving it millions of dollars in tax breaks, even as hundreds of Indianapolis workers prepared to be laid off.
“Trump and Pence, they pulled a dog and pony show on the numbers,” said Jones, who voted for Hillary Clinton but called her “the better of two evils.” “I almost threw up in my mouth.”
Spokesmen for Trump did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.
In exchange 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 a decade. Carrier, meanwhile, agreed to invest $16 million in its Indiana operation. United Technologies still plans to send 700 factory jobs from Huntington, Ind., to Monterrey, Mexico.
T.J. Bray, 32, one of the workers who will keep his job, sat in the front row during the Dec. 1 meeting as Trump spoke. A corporate employee had guided him specifically to that seat, he said, so he suspected he might be part of Trump’s remarks.
On Carrier's makeshift stage, Trump paraphrased the words of an unnamed Carrier employee who talked to an NBC reporter after the election. Bray was the only Carrier employee who had appeared on television that day. Apparently, he realized, Trump was saying he inspired the deal.
“He said something to the effect, ‘No, we’re not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving,’ and I never thought I made that promise,” Trump said. “Not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier.”
In fact, Trump did make that commitment, and it's on video. “They're going to call me and they are going to say 'Mr. President, Carrier has decided to stay in Indiana,'” Trump had said at the April rally. “One hundred percent — that's what is going to happen.”
Last week, though, the president-elect told the Carrier crowd he hadn't meant that literally.
“I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in,” Trump said. “Because they made the decision a year and a half ago. But he believed that was — and I could understand it. I actually said — I didn’t make it — when they played that, I said, 'I did make it, but I didn’t mean it quite that way.'”
Trump asked if the employee he’d been referencing was in the audience. A woman yelled that her son was, and Trump began to compliment that son, though he hadn't spoken in the television news segment. (Bray said that a United Technologies spokesman later told him Trump meant to single him out.)
“I was confused when he was like, ‘I wasn’t talking about Carrier,’” Bray said. “You made this whole campaign about Carrier, and we're still losing a lot of jobs.”
Bray clapped that day, anyway, for the 800 that would remain on American soil.
*This story has been updated
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