INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 16, 2016) – They aren’t going down without a fight. The United Steelworkers Union 1999 President didn’t hold back Tuesday in the wake of a meeting with Carrier executives.
Carrier announced last week they’d shutter their Indianapolis plant in the coming years and move at least 1,400 jobs to Mexico by 2019. The move drew national backlash.
Tuesday, Carrier told the union that the closure is basically a done deal, explaining that the average worker in Indianapolis makes more than $20 an hour, and that Mexican workers can be paid $6 an hour.
“I’ve been through this three times,” said Lewis Douthitt, a current Carrier employee.
It’s an all too familiar scene for Douthitt. He came to Carrier, hoping the stop there would be his last.
“I hate to see Carrier go, because I thought I was going to do my ten years here and get out and retire. Don’t look like I’m going to do that. I’ve got to get out and find another job,” he said.
“We’ve got an experienced workforce, and we can compete on every level there is. But we can’t compete when they’re paying God-awful wages,” said Chuck Jones, President of USW Local 1999.
Jones met with Carrier leadership for about an hour on Tuesday. The company said the first phase-out will be in May of 2017, with full closure likely in 2019.
The west side facility expanded in 2011 and got a six-year tax abatement from the city, clearing Carrier from paying $1 million in property taxes.
Since 2013, Carrier got almost $200,000 in employee training grants from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
“We are reviewing right now all the agreements between the state of Indiana and these companies. And if they do not fulfill the obligations made in these contracts, we’ll look to get the taxpayers’ money back,” said Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Jones said leadership will meet with the company leadership again to try and bargain extra benefits for let-go workers. He expects employees to be vocal.
“Now, if we go down, we’re going to go down with rallies, protests, demonstrations, and everything. So you’ll see a lot of visibility probably here on the west side in the months to come,” he said.
Meanwhile, Douthitt is putting his trust in a higher power.
“It’s sad, but I don’t feel sorry because the man upstairs is going to take care of us,” he said, “You got to have faith, because if you ain’t got faith, you lost.”
Tuesday, union leadership said the Bernie Sanders campaign has reached out to them to show support. Donald Trump made comments about the Carrier move over the weekend.
Another facility in northeastern Indiana is closing as well, taking 700 jobs with it. That facility is owned by Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies.