Employees of Carrier who were recently informed, rather publicly, that their jobs were on the chopping block are now at the center of a wider debate involving the presidential race candidates.
The Carrier controversy
With the Indiana primaries taking center stage, the spotlight is back on the Carrier layoff uproar. In a much circulated video from February 2016, the President of the company informed his 1,400 employees from the manufacturing plant in Indianapolis that their jobs were being moved offshore to Mexico.
This was a move, say company officials, designed to help the firm stay competitive. The new plant is being readied at Monterrey in Mexico.The company will begin the move in earnest in 2017 and hopes to complete the transition by 2019, over a three year period.
Candidates cash in
Donald Trump took the opportunity to air his views on the matter, highlighting how he had seen this problem coming. He mentioned that Carrier was synonymous with Indiana, but the firm is now exiting the state. He said he was a vocal supporter of the opposition to this move. The Carrier example is one that is very much in line with some arguments he has been making on the lost jobs in the context of trade deficits and NAFTA.
Sen. Bernie Sanders came out strongly against the move, saying that the CEO of United Technologies (the company that owns Carrier) needs to “stop the greed”, and also called on him to “stop destroying the middle class in America”. Sanders has received an endorsement from the United Steelworkers Local 1999, and joined them in a march in the city to bring focus to the issue.
Free trade agreement backer Cruz said that once he is in office, he will “rewrite” government regulations to bring these jobs back to the state. This brought a rebuttal from Trump who laid claim to being the biggest supporter of the Carrier issue and said he wanted to “do the number on Carrier.”
Carrier is only the latest in a slew of similar layoffs following factory closures or downsizing in the Rust Belt of the country. Manufacturing jobs as well as trade related issues are key concerns for the conservative blue collar majority of the state.
Workers unconvinced by candidate attention
While the Carrier situation is much referenced by candidates, the workers are unsure if any of this will translate to much for them. Whether their jobs will be saved, or if they will be given employment remains a question mark. Some have gone so far as to say the candidates are being “opportunists”, while acknowledging that the attention from the media and a wider audience may also help the workers’ cause in some way. Others believe that many candidates are not really clear on the situation on the ground. For now though, the angry employees are just content to see the ire of the world directed at their employer.