Carrier Workers See Costs, Not Benefits, of Global Trade

INDIANAPOLIS — The fuzzy video, shot by a worker on the floor of a Carrier factory here in the American heartland last month, captured the raging national debate over trade and the future of the working class in 3 minutes 32 seconds.

“This is strictly a business decision,” a Carrier executive tells employees, describing how their 1,400 jobs making furnaces and heating equipment will be sent to Mexico. Workers there typically earn about $19 a day — less than what many on the assembly line here make in an hour. As boos and curses erupt from the crowd, the executive says, “Please quiet down.”

What came next was nothing of the kind.

Within hours of being posted on Facebook, the video went viral. Three days after Carrier’s Feb. 10 announcement, Donald J. Trump seized on the video in a Republican presidential debate and made Carrier’s move to Mexico a centerpiece of his stump speeches attacking free trade.

Jennifer Shanklin-Hawkins is one of those Carrier workers who listened to the announcement on the factory floor. After 14 years on the assembly line, she earns $21.22 an hour, enough to put her oldest son through college while raising two other children with her husband, a truck driver.

And when she saw Mr. Trump talking about Carrier on the news, all she could do was shout “Yessss!” at the TV. “I loved it,” she said. “I was so happy Trump noticed us.”

In living rooms and barrooms across Indianapolis, conversations with Carrier workers like Ms. Shanklin-Hawkins crystallize what has become an extraordinary moment in the American political and economic debate. As both political parties belatedly recognize the anxiety and deep-seated anger of blue-collar workers nationwide, the more-trade-is-good bipartisan consensus that has long held sway in Washington is being sundered.

What isn’t evident in the video — or in the furious debate it has spawned — is that both the company and its soon-to-be former employees are reacting to the same transformative quarter-century of American economic policy aimed at lowering trade barriers and staying globally competitive.

CARRIER LAYOFFS TEACH WORKERS COSTS OF GLOBAL TRADE

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