INDIANAPOLIS – Another wave of layoffs at the Carrier plant left 215 people unemployed Thursday, despite President Trump’s campaign promises to help keep American workers at the company.
It was raining as dozens of employees channeled out of the Carrier parking lot during the 4:30 p.m. shift change. A police officer from the sheriff’s department wearing a bright yellow vest stepped out of his unmarked car, its lights flashing, to direct many of the cars away for the final time.
One of these workers was 44-year-old operator Renee Elliott, who said Wednesday the loss felt like a divorce from her tight-knit co-workers.
“If you didn’t eat lunch, someone made sure you did,” Elliott said.
Carrier, a company that creates heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration technology, announced in February 2016 that it would close its Indianapolis plant and move operations to Mexico. Since then, at least 500 people have lost their jobs.
Then-President-elect Trump came to Indianapolis on Dec. 1, 2016, to highlight a Carrier agreement that required the plant remain open for 10 years and save 800 furnace manufacturing jobs in exchange for $7 million in tax cuts.
The president of the Indianapolis United Steelworkers Local 1999, Robert James, said he didn’t believe Trump has done enough.
“He hasn’t fulfilled any of the promises that he has made," James said, "and that’s what he needs to do."
James said the 800 negotiated positions have gone untouched, but Carrier has found ways around its deal by cutting other parts of its workforce instead, like the 215 fan coil workers laid off this week.
These layoffs were part of the relocation plan and had already been announced.
A Wednesday statement from the company highlighted reimbursement for higher education and vocational training programs for those affected by cuts.
“All impacted employees will also receive a one-time payment, severance pay and six months of medical insurance continuation beyond separation,” according to the statement.
Elliott, who had been with Carrier for five years, said she knew for a while that her job would be gone, but the reality of it all didn’t sink in until she spoke at Sully’s Bar and Grill, across from the plant, at a press conference Wednesday night.
The cuts were supposed to come Dec. 22.
Elliott said she thinks the corporation extended the date to lessen the blow during the holidays.
“I’m sure they didn’t want to look bad,” Elliot said.
The layoffs at Carrier, Elliott said, are part of a national problem of outsourcing jobs and leaving American workers without a way to support themselves.
“It’s not a fad, it’s an epidemic,” she said.
On election day in November 2016, Elliott had high hopes as she drove to the polls in the rain to proudly vote for Donald Trump as president of the United States, confident that he would be able to save people’s jobs.
“I was not alone,” Elliot remembered. “Hundreds of workers wanted desperately to believe him.”
In the year afterward, she faced personal challenges. She spent time fearing for her son serving in Afghanistan and worrying when her daughter was stuck at college in Florida during Hurricane Irma.
Her career at Carrier has also come with hardships. She was placed on medical leave because of congestive heart failure, which she said was due in part to the seven-day workweeks she undertook to earn more vacation pay. And Thursday her difficulties continued as she lost her livelihood and returned to the job market.
Elliott used her time in front of the news cameras Wednesday to speak directly to the president, who she said betrayed and forgot about her.
She said she hoped he would remember her and the others laid off across the country in his upcoming State of the Union address.
“I hope you will talk about the true state of the union for working people,” she said.
Trump frequently promised to bring jobs, especially in manufacturing, back to the American people while on the campaign trail and used Carrier as an example of what he would be able to do for the country.
Chuck Jones, a former Indianapolis United Steelworkers president, was also at the Wednesday press conference.
He told attendees not to blame the Mexican workers who would soon be working Carrier jobs because they are trying make a living, just like Americans.
He pointed instead to the hypocrisy of Trump and his daughter Ivanka, who have been criticized in the past for sending jobs from their own companies overseas, going against the model they preach to others.
“It’s corporate greed, pure and simple,” Jones said.
Trump tweeted about jobs both Wednesday and Thursday, but did not mention Carrier. He did, however, praise Chrysler for keeping jobs out of Mexico in his Thursday tweet.
"Chrysler is moving a massive plant from Mexico to Michigan, reversing a years long opposite trend," he tweeted. "Thank you Chrysler, a very wise decision. The voters in Michigan are very happy they voted for Trump/Pence. Plenty of more to follow!"
He focused on other car companies Wednesday.
“Good news: Toyota and Mazda announce giant new Huntsville, Alabama, plant which will produce over 300,000 cars and SUV’s a year and employ 4000 people," the tweet read. "Companies are coming back to the U.S. in a very big way. Congratulations Alabama!”
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