Saturday, February 17, 2018
Politics

Trump retaliates against a union leader on Twitter

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.

"Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!" the president-elect tweeted.

And then: "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. 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.' "

Jones, president of the United Steelworkers 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.

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 jobs that were never scheduled to leave. Five hundred and 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 ten. 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."

Spokespeople for Trump did not respond to the Post's requests for comment.

Over the last 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 American soil, bargaining repeatedly with both 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: "Appreciate the chance to meet w/ Chuck Jones & hardworking men of Local 1999 about our efforts to save Carrier jobs."

A half 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 gooing to 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 you know I've heard everything from people who want to burn my house down 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 makes stupid statements and move on."

Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, called Jones after Trump's tweet caught his eye. He scrambled to call his friend. 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 president-elect smearing him on Twitter."

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