Steelworkers leader at Carrier calls for trade deals’ revamp

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hundreds of Carrier workers left their workplace for the last time Thursday.

It was the last day of work for about 300 workers whose jobs are being relocated.

The air-conditioning and refrigeration company agreed late last year to keep about 800 jobs in Indianapolis in exchange for millions of dollars in tax breaks, but Carrier still plans to cut about 600 jobs from the Indianapolis plant by the end of the year.

“I wish that something could have been worked out between them and us as to whether all these jobs could have stayed,” United Steelworkers 1999 President Robert James said. “It’s not good to have people going out into the street and starting things over.”

James said his seniority — 19 years at Carrier — will allow him to keep his job.

His other job is helping hundreds of workers find new positions and training.

He’s also calling on lawmakers to revamp trade deals to help American workers.

“We cannot compete with $3 an hour. Our minimum wage is $7.25 an hour so there’s no way we’re going to be able to compete with Mexico or some other countries that are a part of the process,” James said.

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, said he’s working to get a vote on what he called the End Outsourcing Act. He said the bill would award federal contracts to companies that employ Americans and tax breaks to companies that relocate foreign jobs to the United States.

“The president has already said that he’s very much in favor of it. So he’ll sign it and what we’re trying to do is simply get a vote,” Donnelly said. “That should be easy to do. It’s simply a commitment from my friends on the Republican side to put this on the floor and get a vote.”

Carrier released a statement Thursday saying about 30 workers leaving Thursday are using the company’s Employee Scholar Program, which Carrier said will pay for four years of education. Workers are also getting health insurance for six more months.

Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, said it plans to hire about 25,000 people in the U.S. by the end of 2019.

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