Chuck Jones is president of United Steelworkers 1999.
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)

I’m a union leader in Indianapolis. I represent the Carrier workers whose jobs Donald Trump has pledged to save. And I’m tired of being lied to.

In February, corporate officials came to our plant and announced that they were closing the facility. They would move 1,300 jobs to a plant in Mexico. (Three hundred and fifty positions would remain in Indianapolis, mostly filled by research and development staff.)

Over the next several months, my team and I worked tirelessly to keep Carrier in our city. We came up with $23 million in savings, but the Carrier brass said that wasn’t enough. They could save $65 million by moving to Mexico. We couldn’t match that unless we were willing to cut wages to $5/hour and cut all benefits.

So we started to negotiate a severance package instead — one week of pay for every year of service, a $2,500 lump sum for every employee and free health care for six months.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Trump got involved. He sat down with Carrier leaders. Afterward, he announced that 1,100 jobs would be saved. When I first heard the news, I was optimistic. But I began to get nervous when we couldn’t get any details on the deal. I urged caution, but our members got their hopes up. They thought their jobs had been saved.

When I met with Carrier officials last Thursday, I realized that that wouldn’t be the case. Though Trump said he’d saved 1,100 jobs, he hadn’t. Carrier told us that 550 people would get laid off.

Trump didn’t tell people that, though. When he spoke at our plant, he acted like no one was going to lose their job. People went crazy for him. They thought, because of Trump, I’m going to be able to provide for my family. 

All the while, I’m sitting there, thinking that’s not what the damn numbers say. Trump let people believe that they were going to have a livelihood in that facility. He let people breathe easy. When I told our members the next day, they were devastated.

I was angry, too. So I told a Washington Post reporter the truth — that Trump’s 1,100 number was wrong. When Trump read my comments, he got angry. Last night, he tweeted:

Now our office is getting phone calls and emails from people who are mad that I called Trump on his dishonesty. One man left five messages (though when I called him back and told him who I was, he hung up the phone). Some people have suggested that Trump didn’t mean to lie, he just got the numbers wrong. But I know that’s not true. On the campaign trail, Trump made perfectly clear how excellent a negotiator he is. I have negotiated hundreds of contracts. I know that if I’m going to have a fighting chance, I better damn well know the numbers.

To be honest, the attention isn’t a big deal. I’ve been doing this job for 30 years. In that time, people have threatened to shoot me, to burn my house down. I’m not a macho man, but I’m just used to it.

What I can’t abide, however, is a president who misleads workers, who gives them false hope. We’re not asking for anything besides opportunity, for jobs that let people provide for their families. These plants are profitable, and the workers produced a good-quality product. Because of corporate greed, though, company leaders are racing to the bottom, to find places where they can pay the least. It’s a system that exploits everyone.

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