President-elect trashes Chuck Jones and hires Andrew Puzder. What could be plainer?
During his election campaign Donald Trump portrayed himself as the champion of middle America and the middle-aged manufacturing worker.
He promised to renegotiate the NAFTA trade deal which did much to destroy decent manufacturing jobs, to reopen closed down steel mills and mines, slap massive tariffs on imported manufactured goods (especially from China) and send immigrants back home to create jobs for disillusioned US workers.
US unions pointed out Trump was no friend working people or trade unions. Nonetheless millions of blue-collar workers turned out and voted for his vacuous promises – some saying that Trump was their only hope.
It has been suggested that large numbers of ‘union households’ may have delivered him the presidency.
But even before he has taken the oath of office Trump has shown his true colours by attacking a local trade union official on Twitter and by appointing a fast food CEO as his Labour Secretary.
Last week Trump tweeted an attack on the president of the United Steelworkers in Local 1999, Chuck Jones, who had exposed a deal brokered by Trump at Carrier – a manufacturing company in Indianapolis.
Jones went public and said Trump had ‘lied his ass off’ over a deal which he describes as being ‘phoney’ and a ‘dog and pony show’.
For months Jones and his members had been fighting to stop the company shutting two sites and moving to Mexico. They had worked hard to persuade Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies, not to move 2,100 jobs to Mexico, (1,400 from the Carrier plant in Indianapolis and 700 from a plant in Huntington, Indiana).
But Carrier officials had said the only way the steelworkers union could save the Indianapolis plant was to cut their wages from around $22 an hour to $6 – below the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Carrier said it would save $65 million annually by closing its Indianapolis plant and moving the operation to Monterrey, Mexico, where it pays workers $2 to $3 an hour. Jones and his members had no room to manoeuvre.
The plight of Carrier has been a cause célèbre in the US trade union movement and Trump told voters in the campaign he would stop companies destroying decent manufacturing jobs, and so rocked up in Indianapolis and met the company – minus any union officials.
After meeting the management of the plant Trump did a ‘victory lap’ of the factory and after appearing on a makeshift stage in a conference room, he applauded United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, for cutting a deal with him and agreeing to keep 1,100 jobs that were planned to move to Mexico.
Carrier, he said, had agreed to preserve 800 production jobs in Indiana, but Jones said Trump was taking credit for ‘rescuing’ 350 engineering jobs that were never going to be lost and five hundred fifty workers were still losing their jobs.
Plus 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 send 700 factory jobs from Huntington, Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico.
Jones’s rebuff offended Trump, who took to Twitter to attack him:
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
This was followed up by:
If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
Jones then received threats including one saying: ‘We know what car you drive.’
By midweek the Steelworkers union had sent out tweets defending Jones and saying:
— United Steelworkers (@steelworkers) December 8, 2016
Across the country, union members rallied behind Jones. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted:
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) December 8, 2016
Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers Union, expressed frustration with Trump’s reaction.
“I’m terribly disappointed, and I’m also angry,” he told Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC. “We’ve got someone who is just about to become the president of the United States, most important job on the planet, and he is busy tweeting about a local union president who is in fact a hero.”
Trump’s tweets are true to form – a frontal attack on workers for not accepting massive pay cuts and blaming them for the actions of multi nationals such as United Technologies whose only reason to move to Mexico is to maximise profits.
Jones says he is not ‘fazed’ by the Trump attack and suggested the president elect should sit down with him and discuss the deal.
News channel MSNBC also called out Trump and pointed out that after Jones had hit back, Trump avoided any mention of the Carrier deal.
Not content with picking fights with local union leaders, Trump announced last week that he picked Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, to lead the U.S. Department of Labor.
Puzder, like several of Trump’s other nominees, is a multi-millionaire who served as an adviser and fundraiser during the presidential campaign.
Puzder’s remarks as a business executive are that he will take a pro-business, anti-union approach to the federal agency tasked with protecting American workers and their jobs, which clashes with Trump’s populist campaign message of fighting for blue-collar workers.
Puzder has been a defender of Trump’s economic policies, including lowering the corporate-tax rate, and opposed Obamacare and business regulations, such as a higher minimum wage.
It is anticipated that Pudzer will start to unravel pro-worker legislation passed by Obama such as the minimum wage for employees hired by federal contractors, and paid sick days and guarantees on overtime pay.
Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite responsible for manufacturing