President Trump has long praised himself for “saving” more than a thousand jobs at Carrier, a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning company with locations across the globe.
Now, however, a New York Times report has revealed morale at the company’s Indianapolis, Indiana factory has reached an all-time low.
Months ahead of the 2016 election, Carrier announced it would be shuttering its Indianapolis factory and moving its 1,400 jobs to Mexico, citing “ongoing cost and pricing pressures” driven by “new regulatory requirements.” The unexpected announcement reportedly sent shockwaves through the community, with Carrier employees fearful about their futures.
At the time, then-GOP candidate Trump condemned the move, claiming he would impose harsh tariffs on any foreign-made Carrier products, if elected.
By November of that year, shortly after winning the presidential election, Trump appeared to have changed his tune, tweeting that he was in talks with Carrier’s leadership to keep the plant running. At the end of the month, Carrier announced it would keep the Indianapolis factory open, saying it had reached a deal with Trump and Vice President Pence to preserve those jobs, in exchange for a $7 million state incentives package.
Republicans and some workers immediately praised the deal, calling it a game-changer, but the celebration was short lived. Days after the breakthrough was announced, it was reported Trump had inflated the number of jobs saved in the deal, failing to mention that 300 of those posts were “never…going to Mexico in the first place,” according to the Washington Post.
United Technologies (UTC) CEO Greg Hayes, who runs Carrier’s parent company, also announced in December that the company would be directing the incentives funding toward automation, rather than using it to invest in its employees.
In the end, as ThinkProgress previously reported, 632 jobs at the Indianapolis plant were moved to Mexico, as originally planned. An additional 700 jobs at a plant operated by UTC, Carrier’s parent company, were also moved to Mexico this summer.
That loss, paired with growing uncertainty among Carrier’s workers about the future of their factory jobs, has led to an overall atmosphere of dread, the New York Times reported Friday.”
“What’s ailing Carrier isn’t weak demand. Furnace sales are strong, and managers have increased overtime and even recalled 150 previously laid-off workers,” the Times’ Nelson D. Schwartz wrote. “Instead, employees share a looming sense that a factory shutdown is inevitable — that Carrier has merely postponed the closing until a more politically opportune moment.”
Employees say absenteeism has risen, with many workers exhausted by the high quotas or frustrated by the idea that, any day, Carrier could pull the rug out from under them.
“People aren’t coming to work, which is sad because we really need these jobs,” assembly line worker Nicole Hargrove told the Times. “They had a chance to prove that staying was good, but this is ruining it for everybody. It’s killing us. It’s pushing us out the door that much sooner.”
Specifically, employees point to long hours as a driving force for that absenteeism. According to one group leader, Paul Roell, who’s been at the Indianapolis plant for 19 years, Carrier has been “running the factory hard,” forcing employees to work up to 60 hours per week, six days in a row, with “mandatory overtime.”
Additionally, Roell, said, the sense that Carrier might continue to whittle down its staff in favor of automation or cheaper labor has led some workers to all but abandon their jobs. “Workers feel like Carrier is going to leave, whether we come to work or not,” he said.
Carrier, by contrast, claims things at the factory are running smoothly. “[We are] proud of the great work being done by our Carrier employees at our Indianapolis plant,” a spokesperson said in a statement to the Times. “We recently added a new gas furnace production line and continue to make investments in the facility, including skills training for our employees and product improvements.”
The spokesperson said claims of rising absenteeism were false.
Employees don’t buy the hype, noting that supervisors had once gathered them together to let them know their “counterparts in Mexico missed fewer days” of work.
“I’m worried they will use the absenteeism as an excuse to shut the factory,” Roell said. “They aren’t doing anything to improve morale.”
The Times report comes as workers face increased pressure on all sides, across the country. Although President Trump claimed the passage of the GOP tax bill in December would assist working class Americans, there’s little proof the tax cuts have actually reached them, as Republicans promised. Overall, worker wages appear mostly stagnant, with weekly hours increasing in most sectors.
Those benefiting from the bill include CEOs, corporations — who’ve raked in mammoth windfalls due to the corporate tax cut — and the very wealthy.