Tammy Decker and Vickie Farmer have more than 50 years of combined service at Carrier Corp.
They’re also facing unemployment after the company announced in February that it would close its facility on Indianapolis’ west side and move its operation to Mexico.
On Wednesday, the two joined hundreds of workers and demonstrators in front of the Carrier plant to protest the company’s decision to head across the border.
“It just don’t make sense,” Decker said. “It really don’t. And I’ve got grandkids that’s asking me, ‘Mam’ma, why are they taking your job?’ And I have to tell them, ‘It’s greed.'”
Carrier, a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning manufacturer, announced Feb. 10 that it was closing the facility, eliminating 1,400 Hoosier jobs.
The rally, organized by United Steelworkers, drew union members from as far as Gary to the lawn in front of the plant. Carrying signs that read “Fighting for American Jobs” and “Free Trade Isn’t Free,” protesters called for the facility to remain open and demanded the company return financial incentives it was given for creating jobs in Indianapolis.
“They’re going to make this stuff in Mexico and then bring it back here and sell it to us after they’ve taken our jobs,” said Michelle Hughes, 55, who has worked 16 years for Carrier. “They’re going to take (the company) down there and make these people work for $6 a day.”
United Steelworkers, which represents Carrier’s workers, said the Mexican workers will actually earn $3 an hour, which is $23 less than some of the top-paid employees in Indianapolis.
Richard Gorbett, a USW member who also has worked 16 years at Carrier, told IndyStar he just wants to keep his job.
“They ain’t no good to us,” Gorbett said. “We do all this work for them, making all this money and stuff, then they want to move it to Mexico. That ain’t right.”
Fortunately for Gorbett, he’s close to retirement, he said, but he feels for the younger employees and their families.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said.
Carrier’s announcement to close the plant made national headlines and has become a flaming torch in Republican Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency. He has referenced the company’s plan on the campaign trail and during debates, saying that, if elected, he would get consensus from Congress and tax Carrier when its products come back across the border.
But Mike Millsap, district director at USW in Gary, told those who attended the rally that, “We need to put people in office that’s going to take action, and it’s not Donald Trump.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett also stopped by the rally, hopping into the bed of a pickup truck with union members and picking up a microphone to speak to workers.
“We’re going to continue to push the company to do everything it can to be fair as you deserve it to be, to every worker at this facility,” Hogsett said.
The state and Hogsett are amassing resources to help the displaced employees. The state is offering free job training services through its WorkOne program, and the city of Indianapolis is compiling local, state and federal resources to aid the workers.
“I never thought it’d happen,” Decker said. “It’s sad. It really is.”
IndyStar reporter Kris Turner contributed to this story.
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