Carrier negotiations could be first true test of Pence’s role in Trump administration

INDIANAPOLIS – Hope rose from a single tweet Thanksgiving Day.

But four days later, as a growing number of reports indicate Vice President-elect Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is at the helm of high-level negotiations with Carrier, many questions still remain.

“It’s going to be a busy week,” Pence said when arriving at Trump Tower Monday morning. “Get ready. Buckle up.”

Trump’s tweet Thursday set off renewed speculation that the new administration might in fact keep a campaign promise and stop Carrier and its parent company United Technologies from moving 1,400 Indianapolis manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

“We haven’t heard anything from his people or the company,” Chuck Jones said, president of the local United Steelworkers union.

Jones has been fielding phone calls and working to limit excitement ever since.

“What I hope don’t happen is people get let down again,” Jones said Monday at the union hall.

Late Sunday the Wall Street Journal reported the wide-ranging talks between Pence and top executives centered in-part around a sweeping tax overhaul.

Local union officials know if a deal were to be made, Indianapolis employees would most likely be asked to and forced to accept certain concessions, a conversation Jones said hasn’t happened yet.

“When you’re talking about giving concessions to a company that’s been highly profitable, then it makes a different twist to itself,” he said.

The Carrier talks could be the first true test of a new Trump administration and potential sign of a new approach, negotiating directly with individual companies, which would appear small in context of larger economic and manufacturing issues facing the United States.

The approach leaves other manufacturing workers wondering why not them, like the 300 Indianapolis workers at Rexnord, another company that recently announced it’s moving operations to Mexico.

“I hope the Carrier people the best of luck and hope they get their jobs back,” Don Zering said, the union president at Rexnord. “And hope we get mentioned in the back 40 on it so they’ll hear about Rexnord too.”

Local officials, including a spokesperson for Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and  the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, declined to comment or offer any insight Monday, leaving many Hoosiers wondering and waiting.

Company officials with Carrier and United Technologies declined to comment further as well, pointing to a tweet from the company confirming the talks.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said Monday he again wants lawmakers to consider offshoring as a factor when awarding federal contracts. Military sales account for about 10% of United Technologies $56 billion annual total, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“I have been fighting for the Carrier workers and will continue pushing United Technologies not to ship these good-paying Hoosier jobs to Mexico," he said in a statement. "I am pleased the incoming Administration shares my commitment to these Hoosier workers, and I stand ready to assist however possible."

Union officials said a gradual phase out of the Indianapolis plan is expected begin in June, with the entire plant scheduled to be shut down by early 2019.