Job cuts endure at Indiana factories despite Trump pressure
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — About 1,500 workers at three Indiana factories are facing layoffs despite hopes that President Donald Trump would convince the companies to reverse plans for moving production to Mexico.
United Technologies confirmed Friday that the first wave of about 50 layoffs happened last week at its electronics plant that had about 700 workers in Huntington. The plant in the northeastern Indiana city is slated for closure.
Steps are also being taken toward about 550 job cuts anticipated at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indianapolis, where Trump's intervention last fall curbed job losses but didn't halt them altogether. Layoffs could start within a month at a 350-worker Rexnord industrial bearings factory in Indianapolis, according to United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones, who represents workers at the Carrier and Rexnord plants.
Trump visited the Carrier factory on Dec. 1, touting his role in the decision of parent company United Technologies to reverse about 800 of its some 1,400 planned job cuts at the furnace plant and only partially move operations to Mexico. Trump told a crowd of workers and company officials: "Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. It's not going to happen."
The following day, Trump tweeted: "Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all of its 300 workers. This is happening all over our country. No more!"
Connecticut-based United Technologies and Milwaukee-based Rexnord have since pushed on preparations for the jobs cuts, taking steps such as removing equipment from the Indiana factories without any signs of additional Trump intervention.
"We haven't heard anything at all. With that being said, I have to assume the Rexnord and Carrier situations are both done deals," said Jones, who was chastised by a Trump tweet in early December after complaining that Trump had given false hope to workers by inflating the number of Carrier jobs being kept in Indianapolis.
Fifty-three people worked their final shifts at the United Technologies Electronic Controls factory in Huntington on March 10, and about 100 more job cuts could come within the next week, said Julie Marsh, who was vice president of the plant's union local before taking a voluntary layoff from her job of 17 years last week.
"I couldn't take it anymore," Marsh said in a phone interview Friday. "It was hard to see the equipment going out. It's hard to watch people's faces because everybody knows it's coming now."
Company officials have said the Huntington factory could be shut down in early 2018.
Jones said about 300 Carrier workers applied to accept voluntary layoffs, which could begin in September. Those workers will receive a severance package including one week's pay for every year of employment and six months of paid medical insurance.
A spokeswoman for Carrier confirmed the plans for voluntary layoffs but didn't respond to questions about whether additional rollbacks of the production shifts had been considered.
Rexnord officials didn't reply to requests for comment. Rexnord CEO Todd Adams said in a February conference call with analysts that he didn't see anything from Trump's talk on tariffs and possible foreign trade restrictions to change the company's decision about operating in Mexico.
"We're very much a U.S. manufacturer, but we have global customers and serve global markets, so we sort of have to manufacture in a lot of different places to be an effective participant in the marketplace," Adams said.
Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger said in a recent interview that state officials unsuccessfully tried to talk with Rexnord about its decision. He said government officials lacked leverage with Rexnord that they had with United Technologies — which also owns Pratt & Whitney, a big supplier of fighter jet engines that relies in part on U.S. military contracts.
"We don't have the federal contracts to hold over their head, like we had, like the president had, on Carrier," Schellinger said. "But we tried to reach out."