Don’t Forget the Workers at Rexnord

By Matthew McMullan
Feb 02 2017 |
Hoosiers protest United Technologies’ announced plans to offshore thousands of Indiana jobs to Mexico in April 2016. | Photo by William Jones

President Trump ought to listen up.

This was almost a year ago. Do you remember it?

An executive at Carrier (a subsidiary of United Technology Corp.) told an assembled crowd of employees, pulled from their shifts at the company’s HVAC manufacturing facility in Indianapolis, that they would all be laid off and their jobs would be shipped to Mexico.

Cries and groans went up from the audience. We know this – we all know this – because a worker yanked out a smart phone in the middle of it and started recording. And that video went viral:

In the weeks and months that followed, Carrier – in meetings with the workforce’s union representation, then with city officials, then-Gov. Mike Pence, and members of Indiana’s congressional delegation – would claim that the labor cost differential was just too high.

Carrier stuck to their guns even after presidential candidate Donald Trump railed against it on the campaign trail.

Then Trump shocked the world by winning the presidential election. Gov. Pence, now the vice president-elect, reached back out to Carrier. And a week or two later, President-elect Donald Trump was taking a victory lap through the factory, claiming his direct intervention saved a significant portion of the 1,700 jobs slated for layoffs.

But what about Rexnord?

Rexnord is a Milwaukee-based company that makes industrial bearings, gears, and other products. It currently has a manufacturing facility in Indianapolis, and its workforce is represented by the same union local that covers the workers who are literally around the corner at Carrier.

Rexnord pulled the same move as Carrier did: It announced in 2016 its plans to lay off its 300 Indianapolis workers and send their jobs to Mexico.

But there was no grim video of their layoff announcement, which means Trump didn’t use their dire straits to get his campaign rally crowds going, which means Trump hasn’t paid much attention to them besides a stray tweet.

Since then, they’ve heard nothing from now-President Trump. Their layoffs are still scheduled for March, and they’re making plenty of noise about them.

The Rexnord workers are rallying again today in downtown Indianapolis. The mayor will address the crowd. A bunch of Hoosier State labor leaders will too. And Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) – who showed up for the Carrier workers back in April – will be dialing in to lend his support.

The goal is to get the president’s attention. This is what he campaigned on, after all; keeping good manufacturing jobs in the United States. Trump's was a very powerful message. But now those workers want the president to live up to the lofty expectations that he has set for himself.

This kind of stuff triggers a lot of eye rolls, but there are a lot of blue collar workers out there that have seen their jobs evaporate in the face of a rising tide of imports, while being sold a bill of goods about how unfettered trade will be good for them and their communities. They are now right up against it, and Donald Trump has been stepping in with an economic message that used to be offered by his current rivals.

It will be nearly impossible for President Trump to intervene on behalf every single company that plans to outsource its production, and judging by his Twitter account, his mind is on other things.

But until he starts offering concrete policy proposals to entice companies to make it in America – whether its tax reform, infrastructure investment, large-scale workforce training programs, or renegotiation of our trade agreements – we should be doing this the loud and hard way: Standing outside with the workers, making noise, and helping them fight for their jobs.

Maybe the president will be paying attention, maybe not; regardless, the American workers at Rexnord in Indianapolis deserve your support. You can even play a part from home, by sending a letter to current Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The rally is tonight at 6 pm E.T. at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. If you’re in Indy, be there or be square.