Donald Trump’s absurd attacks on USW Local 1999 president Chuck Jones gives him the opportunity to respond and note Trump’s lies to working-class Americans, as well as why Trump appealed to union members through those lies.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Trump got involved. He sat down with Carrier leaders. Afterward, he announced that 1,100 jobs would be saved. When I first heard the news, I was optimistic. But I began to get nervous when we couldn’t get any details on the deal. I urged caution, but our members got their hopes up. They thought their jobs had been saved.
When I met with Carrier officials last Thursday, I realized that that wouldn’t be the case. Though Trump said he’d saved 1,100 jobs, he hadn’t. Carrier told us that 550 people would get laid off.
Trump didn’t tell people that, though. When he spoke at our plant, he acted like no one was going to lose their job. People went crazy for him. They thought, because of Trump, I’m going to be able to provide for my family.
All the while, I’m sitting there, thinking that’s not what the damn numbers say. Trump let people believe that they were going to have a livelihood in that facility. He let people breathe easy. When I told our members the next day, they were devastated.
I was angry, too. So I told a Washington Post reporter the truth — that Trump’s 1,100 number was wrong. When Trump read my comments, he got angry. Last night, he tweeted:
And we know what Trump tweeted.
What I can’t abide, however, is a president who misleads workers, who gives them false hope. We’re not asking for anything besides opportunity, for jobs that let people provide for their families. These plants are profitable, and the workers produced a good-quality product. Because of corporate greed, though, company leaders are racing to the bottom, to find places where they can pay the least. It’s a system that exploits everyone.
Of course, the media’s response to this has been terrible, as outlets like Politico and CNN and others are referring to Jones as a “union boss.” This pejorative is inaccurate. Jones is an elected union leader with accountability to his members. This is the equivalent of Trump attacking Frank Sobotka and national media outlets then calling him a union boss.
I do think Jones really gets at why Trump’s lies are so appealing to wide segments of the white working class. Not only does he make them feel good for being white, he tells them what they want to hear when it comes to their jobs. It doesn’t much matter that these are lies later. If someone tells you that they will allow you to feed your family through a dignified job, that is an incredibly appealing message. And everyone who says that economic anxiety wasn’t an issue for white working class Trump voters in the Midwest has to reckon with that fact. Of course, it wouldn’t work for black and Latino working class voters because Trump’s message is racist. But the economic anxiety felt by all members of the working class is very, very real.