One year ago, President Trump stood before me and thousands of other cheering workers at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis and told us that he was there to save our jobs.
I’ll never forget how it felt. All the months I’d spent worrying — how was I going to pay my bills? How was I going to support my 3-year-old son? How was I going to pick up and move on from a job I loved — all that worry was gone.
Standing there was the guy who made it all possible, the president who had just been elected on a promise that he would stand up for us, the men and women who built this country. I’d never felt so proud to be an American.
Now, a year later, I’ve lost my job. As of July 20, 2017, I was laid off, due to Carrier’s parent company United Technologies Corporation deciding to send away my job along with more than 600 of my coworkers (which is more than half the employees) at the Indianapolis plant, plus another 700 workers at our sister plant in Huntington, Indiana, which was completely shut down! And President Trump? He tweeted in November that he was “making progress” with Carrier, but nothing came out of it. It turns out that he did nothing but make a bunch of empty promises.
Today, I feel betrayed and deceived — as if President Trump used my pain, and the pain of working class America, simply to win political points. One thing I don’t think President Trump grasps is that when he promises something, there are real people out there whose lives can be upended if he fails to follow through. We at Carrier depended on him to deliver on those promises.
For 10 years, I lifted 30- to 70-pound fans roughly 1,000 times a day and slid them into furnace casings for top-of-the-line heating systems. It was tough, repetitive work — but I learned to love it. At Carrier, I worked with 1,500 other steelworkers, and we were like a huge, multicultural, multigenerational family: some Democrats, some Republicans, some who never voted. Many, many weeks, we spent more time with each together than with our real families.
That factory and the wages I earned there allowed me and many others to support our families, to plan for our futures, to keep our communities thriving. In 2007, I started at a rate of $17 an hour and moved up to $23 an hour, along with great health care coverage, during my tenure with the company. For decades, working at Carrier meant that we were part of Indiana’s middle class.
This meant that I had the security of a retirement pension to fall back on. I had a good union job that allowed me to do other things I enjoyed, like playing drums in my church’s gospel band. I even thought about going back to school and pursuing a bachelor’s of science in theological studies — taking advantage of the education reimbursement program offered through my union contract.
I was there on the shop floor in February 2016 when we were told they were closing our plant and that we should expect layoffs in the future. It wasn’t because of poor performance. We were a successful, well-respected factory. It was because a bunch of people at the top of the company decided to move our factory to Mexico so they could pay a lower wage for the same work. Men were in tears that awful day. People fainted. The hope of a decent life for many now seemed gone.
And then President Trump came in and made our anguish into his presidential stump speeches. He talked about how he’d picked up the phone and called UTC’s CEO Greg Hayes and told him that he had to stop the layoffs — and that Hayes had agreed. A lot of people took him at his word. It turns out we were wrong to have done so.
The truth is, President Trump could have saved our jobs. UTC collects $5.6 billion — about 10 percent of its overall revenue — yearly from federal contracts. As president of the United States or CEO of America, Inc., he could tell companies like UTC that if they want to do business with the federal government, then they can’t outsource American jobs. He chooses not to do this.
In fact, 56 percent of the top 100 federal contractors — companies like UTC, GE, and General Motors — continue to offshore jobs. In return, they’ve been given almost $21 billion from the Trump administration, according to a report from the activist group Good Jobs Nation (which helped put together this story). UTC alone has received around $1 billion in federal contracts since Trump took office.
Even Hayes agrees that he and the company got a “good deal” from Trump on Carrier. Us workers? We got a raw deal.
I got laid off in July. I don’t remember much from my last day. It was all a blur, kind of like being at your own unexpected funeral.
I finally found a new job working at a hospital — it pays six dollars an hour less than my job at Carrier. Still, I’m one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends still haven’t found work. One former coworker, who should be on the verge of retirement, is now making 10 dollars an hour at a warehouse job. That’s the best job she could find. At Carrier, my friend was making about $22 with good benefits and plenty of opportunity for overtime work.
Since I lost my job at Carrier, I’ve had to move in with my cousin, I lost my car, and I’ve had to live off a tight budget. Losing the job at Carrier has really impacted my ability to fully support my 3-year-old son. I hate the fact that his mom and I had to find a more affordable but not as nice preschool for him. I can’t afford fun outings like the world-famous Indianapolis Children’s Museum anymore. Worst of all, the extra hours I work to make ends meet mean less time with him.
Today, I’d like to tell President Trump that he can still do something to live up to his promises. He can sign an executive order that keeps companies that send jobs overseas from being eligible for federal contracts. It’s that simple. That — not empty rhetoric — would show me and all of America’s working people that he cares about us and our families.
Quinton Franklin is a 38-year-old, single father of a 3-year-old boy, who was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. He worked for Carrier from 2007 to 2017, and was a member of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 Union. He serves as an associate minister at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on the west side of Indianapolis, where he’s been an active member since he was a child.
Michael Oles of Good Jobs Nation assisted in putting together this piece.