Trump’s Newest Scapegoat: The White Working-Class
The President-elect’s attack on union leader Chuck Jones is an unsurprising shift away from Trump’s campaign rhetoric
On March 2nd, Indiana Governor Mike Pence met with Carrier executives to discuss the air conditioning manufacturer's plans to close its Indianapolis factory and move 2,100 jobs to Mexico.
After the meeting, Pence announced that 400 non-factory jobs would remain in Indiana, and that Carrier and UTEC (which are both units of United Technologies Corp) had agreed to repay the state approximately $1.5 million they had received in tax breaks and training grants. Pence voiced his disappointment that Carrier was still committed to closing the factory and said: “if there is any way to save these jobs in the state of Indiana, we told the company that we’re ready to partner with them.”
Pence also praised Chuck Jones, the president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 which represents the Carrier factory workers, and later tweeted a picture of his meeting with the workers:
Appreciate the chance to meet w/ Chuck Jones & hardworking men of Local 1999 about our efforts to save Carrier jobs
After the meetings, Pence said he was encouraged but didn’t “want to create any false hope for people.”
On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to punish Carrier for outsourcing jobs to Mexico if he was elected president:
I will call the head of Carrier and I will say, I hope you enjoy your new building. I hope you enjoy Mexico. Here’s the story, folks: Every single air conditioning unit that you build and send across our border — you’re going to pay a 35% tax on that unit.
Fast forward eight months, and USW Local 1999 leader Chuck Jones is President-elect Donald Trump’s newest scapegoat.
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!
If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues
Why is Jones’s the latest target of Trump’s wrath? Because Jones caught Trump in a lie and spoke out against him.
On December 1, Trump and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence (who is still the governor of Indiana) announced that they had made a deal with United Technologies Corp. Under the terms of the deal, Carrier is still moving jobs to Mexico — and Trump won’t punish them with a 35% tax increase. Instead, Carrier was promised $7 million in exchange for keeping some jobs in Indiana.
Trump claimed the deal saved “over 1,100” at the Carrier factory. In reality, however, only 730 union jobs and 70 nonunion jobs are being saved. When Chuck Jones learned of the deception, he was understandably upset, and he did not mince his words. He told the Washington Post that Trump and Pence “pulled a dog and pony show on the numbers” and accused Trump of “lying his ass off.”
Although Jones has said that he is thankful that Trump was able to save the 800 jobs he did, he was angry that he had given workers who will still lose their jobs false hope (exactly what Pence once claimed he did not want to do).
Trump’s incoherent Twitter tirade against Jones is what we have come to expect from Trump when anyone dares criticize him. What makes this particular tirade noteworthy, however, is the target of Trump’s wrath — the unionized working-class.
During the campaign Trump railed against Corporate America and portrayed himself as the “voice” of ordinary working Americans. Trump often used Carrier as an example of bad corporate behavior and held-up Carrier’s employees as examples of the good, hard-working Americans he was fighting for.
But Trump’s attack on Jones flips the script on this narrative. He now blames Jones and/or labor unions in general — not Corporate America — for the decline of US manufacturing. The line, “No wonder companies flee the country!” indicates that Trump sympathizes with companies like Carrier and understands their moves to offshore jobs.
His claim that if “United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana” essentially absolves Carrier of any responsibility for their actions. According to Trump, the union is solely responsible for its members losing their jobs. This attack is even more far-fetched when you consider that Trump and Pence — who offered $7 million to Carrier and will soon be in charge of the federal government which Carrier has many contracts with — had significantly more bargaining power than Local 1999 and were still unable to keep all the jobs in Indiana. Trump is scapegoating the union for his own failure.
Trump’s attack on Jones and the union movement should not be taken as isolated incident. The Trump administration is shaping-up to be extremely anti-worker. The day after he attacked Jones, Trump named Andy Puzder as head the Department of Labor. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc (which operates the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food chains), is a vocal critic of workplace regulation, is against increasing the minimum wage, and is in favor of fast-food workers being replaced by robots.
The President-elect’s nomination of Andy Puzder for labor secretary, combined with his nomination of four Goldman Sachs bankers to his incoming administration, indicate that Trump will be an aggressively pro-Wall Street, anti-working class president. And his attacks on Jones and USW Local 1999 show that Trump will not hesitate to scapegoat workers and blame them for the harsh economic conditions being imposed on them.