WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump has a broad range of allies in his battle against corporations that ship American jobs overseas.
Trump has been trying to get a company called Carrier to reconsider plans to relocate its Indiana furnace plant to Mexico. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) hopes the president-elect succeeds.
“I think it’s a good use of his time when he’s able to make sure that American workers can stay in their jobs,” Donnelly told The Huffington Post.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who ran for president on a more progressive platform than that of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, called on Trump this week to follow through on his work with Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies.
“We cannot rest until United Technologies signs a firm contract to keep all of these good-paying jobs in Indiana without slashing the salaries or benefits workers have earned,” Sanders said Sunday in a statement that proposed penalties on companies that offshore jobs, something Donnelly had suggested earlier this year.
United Technologies in February announced plans to lay off about 2,000 American workers, including 1,400 at Carrier, by 2019. If Trump can convince United Technologies to keep those jobs in the U.S., analysts say other companies might think twice before offshoring production to other countries.
“What I hope is that if we are able to keep Carrier in Indianapolis that other companies would look and say this makes sense,” Donnelly said. “It doesn’t make sense to send your jobs to Mexico.”
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said he didn’t like the idea of telling private companies how to run their business, but that he supported what Trump was doing.
“It might set a precedent,” he said. “Before you just make a decision to pull out of America, sit down and talk, see if we can find a way to do your production here and still have it be competitive and profitable.”
So far, Carrier has confirmed it is talking with Trump’s team, but not whether the company will save any of the jobs it’s planning to shed. Ford Motor Company, which Trump has also criticized for creating jobs in Mexico, said earlier this month that its offshoring plans hadn’t changed. And those are just two of many, many companies looking to move jobs.
Rexnord, another company in Indianapolis, hasn’t received any attention from Trump despite its plans to do essentially the same thing that Carrier is doing. Donnelly said he had a “long, extensive discussion” with Rexnord officials about whether they could be convinced not to lay off the nearly 300 workers at their Indiana plant.
“There was very little interest,” Donnelly said.
Trump has used Carrier’s Mexico plans as the centerpiece of his economic argument all year ― saying that decades of bad trade deals had essentially rigged the economy in favor of elites at the expense of ordinary workers. After Trump won, congressional Democrats said they would be willing to work with Trump on trade.
And the United Steelworkers union, which had endorsed Clinton before the election, wrote a letter to Trump after his victory saying the group would be happy to collaborate on trade issues.
“During this campaign you spoke out vigorously for the need to bring jobs back home, to invest in domestic manufacturing, take a hard line with our trading partners and to reform our nation’s failed trade policies,” union boss Leo Gerard said in the letter. “We share those goals.”
The head of the United Steelworkers’ local chapter in Indianapolis has said he’s skeptical that Trump can convince Carrier to keep its factory there, but some of the workers who supported Trump are optimistic. Paul Roell, who has worked at Carrier for 17 years, told HuffPost this week that he was heartened that Trump tweeted on Thanksgiving Day that he was “working hard” on a Carrier deal.
“I feel more confident now after the Thanksgiving message, and not just because of Trump but also now Bernie Sanders is getting on board and coming up with the ideas to help Trump to use to get them to stay,” Roell said.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said it’s usually states and local governments that try to coax companies into staying. Still, it’s not unprecedented for a president to do so.
“President Obama constructed an entire rescue plan for the auto sector,” Paul said.