Local union members are rallying around a United Steelworkers union local president from Indiana that President-elect Donald Trump lashed out against on Twitter, after he called into question the number of Carrier Corp. jobs saved from outsourcing to Mexico.
Trump personally attacked USW Local 1999 President Chuck Jones, tweeting "If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues" and "Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!"
Jones had pointed out that the deal would save 800 jobs, not the 1,100 claimed, and that his Indianapolis factory still would lose 550 jobs. He told MSNBC Thursday that after Trump's tweets he immediately started receiving death threats, including from angry callers who demanded to know if he had children and warned him to watch out for his kids.
USW members across Northwest Indiana voiced their support for Jones, posting statements like "I support USW LU 1999 President Chuck Jones" on Facebook and tweeting with the hashtag #ImWithChuck.
"Our Union and the union movement believe an injury to one, is an injury to all," USW D7 Rapid Response Coordinator Jerome Davidson said. "When a robber baron, now president-elect, attacks one of our own, the USW will always stand up and fight back."
Indiana AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies said other union members across the state stood with Jones, who represents workers at the Carrier furnace factory being downsized.
"What president-elect Trump did was not only petty, it was void of basic leadership skills expected from a representative of the American people," Voorhies said. "How can a man whose feet have never hit the shop floor call out a man who's career is centered around supporting working people? Donald Trump pulled a dog and pony show last week at Carrier when he touted falsified information to hopeful Hoosiers fooled into thinking he was their champion."
Voorhies said Carrier was in fact still laying off 1,370 workers at its Indianapolis and Huntington plants, which is why Jones was upset.
The USW described Jones as a hero who fought to preserve the jobs. The union was told it couldn't equal the $65 million in annual savings that would come with a move to Mexico unless Carrier workers agreed to make $5 an hour with no benefits, USW President Leo Gerard said.
"Chuck Jones is someone who is standing up, fighting for his members, refused to accept that Carrier was just going to get to walk away," Gerard said. "He and his membership made this a national issue. Every time a politician wanted to talk about the economy, Chuck Jones and his local talked about Carrier moving to Mexico for $6 an hour and telling us to our face in a warehouse 'nothing personal, we're going because we can make more money.'"
Gerard said he was saddened by the attack on a fellow USW member.
"Because we have a president who clarified the facts, the President of the United States decided that he should call them names," he said. "I'm terribly disappointed, and I'm also angry."
USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap said no American company, unionized or not, could compete with $3 an hour wages in Mexico. He said the union hopes Trump makes good on his campaign trail pledge to impose a 35 percent tariff on any companies that offshore productions and continue to sell their products in the United States.
"The only thing Chuck was trying to do was straighten out the facts," he said. "Pan coil production is still going to Mexico and they're still going to ship it to the United States because there's no market for it in Mexico."
The #ImWithChuck hashtag trended on Twitter Thursday, attracting the support of politicians and even "Lethal Weapon" star Danny Glover.
"For the last 30 years (Jones has) been a vigilant supporter of workers' rights," Glover said in a video statement posted online. "He's been trying to save jobs and keep jobs in his community and in his country. We're right behind you brother."