Brian Reed said he was picking up his daughter from college last fall when his union president called to say their company would be closing its factory in Indianapolis and shipping their jobs to Mexico.
“It’s just devastating,” Reed, 45, said at an event Friday in Indianapolis.
“I hope everyone takes in consideration that the middle class is what keeps America going,” Reed said, “and if they continue to eliminate us, it will be the richest versus the poorest and we’re all going to end up on the short end of the stick.”
Two other soon-to-be laid off workers joined Reed, as did Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who said he’d introduce legislation withdrawing tax breaks from companies that offshore jobs.
In December, Trump called Reed’s employer “vicious” for its plan to sack 300 workers. The company, Rexnord Corp., is profitable, but it could make even more money if it saved on labor costs by relocating its ball-bearings factory to Monterrey, Mexico. The firm doesn’t seem to care about Trump’s tweet and is moving forward with its plant shutdown.
Trump has had some success in getting one other company to stay in the U.S. The air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier announced last year that it would keep its Indianapolis plant thanks to a deal with Trump, who had bashed the company repeatedly during his campaign.
This week, Trump said he’d set an example with Carrier that other companies would follow.
“The word is now out that when you want to move your plant to Mexico or some other place, and you want to fire all of your workers from Michigan and Ohio and all these places that I won ― for good reason ― it’s not going to happen that way anymore,” Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Trump also has (dubiously) taken credit for recent decisions by Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler to invest in domestic production. He said he hoped General Motors, which he attacked last week for making a version of the Chevy Cruze in Mexico, would heed the example.
“I hope that General Motors will be following, and I think they will be,” Trump said. “I think a lot of people will be following.”
So far, GM’s not following. The company is reducing production at its Lordstown, Ohio, plant and laying off more than 1,000 workers there this month.
Though GM manufactures a hatchback version of the Cruze in Mexico, it’s not laying off American employees so it can hire Mexican workers instead. Rather, the company has pointed to slumping domestic Cruze sales, a trend car companies and industry analysts attribute to low gas prices making Americans more interested in bigger vehicles.
Matthew Streb, 36, installs doors on the Cruze at the plant in Lordstown, which assembles more than 95 percent of the Cruzes sold in the U.S. He expects next Friday to be his last day, and he’s not holding his breath that his job will be saved because of Trump.
“I see he’s fond of tweeting, but I believe things when I see them,” Streb said. “I hope he follows through on his campaign promises to save the American worker.”
Streb and his wife bought a house early last year, so the layoff comes at an unfortunate time. He’s optimistic he will either get rehired at the Cruze factory in the near future or find another job. He said he didn’t vote for Trump, but he’s grateful for the attention to his factory from the president-elect.
“I think it’s positive that it made the news and it shed some light on our situation,” Streb said.
Trump has said he’ll hike taxes on imports to punish companies that offshore production, something that hundreds of companies do every year. Many economists say automation is responsible for most of the job losses in manufacturing over the last few decades.
But there’s another way Trump could help. Streb pointed to Trump’s nomination of Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, to be secretary of state as possible good news for the fuel-efficient Chevy Cruze.
“That man may be interested in raising gas prices,” Streb said.