At Carrier, Corporate Greed is the Bottom Line

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Wayne Dale got the call late in the evening on Feb. 9. 

A representative from Carrier Corporation in Indianapolis was on the other end, requesting his appearance the following morning at 10 a.m. at Carrier's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturing facility. 

“They said it was very important that I be there, so I said I will be there,” said Dale, who represents Carrier's employees as the subdirector of the United Steelworkers (USW) District 7. 

The next morning, Dale entered a room full of curious first-shift employees. He had no idea about the shocking news he was about to hear.

Carrier employees react as officials announce the 1,400 layoffs. An additional 700 layoffs at another facility were announced on the same day.

Carrier representatives coldly announced the factory would be shut down and moved to Monterrey, Mexico, leaving approximately 1,400 Indiana workers jobless in the near future.  

The bad news wasn't over. Later that day, it was disclosed that the United Technologies Electronic Controls factory in nearby Huntington, Indiana would also be closing and moving to Mexico. The Huntington plant, located near Fort Wayne, employs 700 people who work on the electrical and technical components for the popular Carrier HVAC systems.  

United Technologies, the parent company of Carrier and United Technologies Electronic Controls, was putting 2,100 people out of work. 

“The Carrier workers are just devastated,” Dale said. "They’re disappointed. Some of the employees put their hands over their faces and were crying. It’s just horrible.” 

Carrier has manufactured heating and cooling systems for more than 60 years in Indianapolis. And in an instant, Carrier employees were told their jobs were being phased out and they were left to fend for themselves — even though the company promised some job skills retraining. 

Juan Martin, a 42-year-old assembler of heating units at Carrier, is a relative newcomer, having only worked 2 1//2 years at the plant. 

“Actually, I love working at Carrier,” he said. “It’s a nice atmosphere and for me, coming from 17 years as a mentor and counselor for troubled children, switching to Carrier allowed me to make a little more money than I did. A good manufacturing job is sometimes better than a job with a sociology degree. 

“But there was no warning. You know, sometimes you might hear a whisper or a rumor but you didn’t even hear that. It just happened. 

“I am very angry. I felt disrespected. I felt like they pulled the rug from under me and that they don’t care about American workers. Corporate greed is the bottom line.” 

Martin, who often received overtime hours, used the extra money to pay the bills of his young grandson who just had heart surgery. 

Profits Over People 

Carrier was founded in 1915 in Farmington, Conn. as an independent, American company manufacturing and distributing HVAC systems. By 2012, Carrier was a $12.5 billion business with more than 43,000 people working in 170 countries. 

In 1979, Carrier was acquired by United Technologies Corp., which expanded its growth. United Technologies has sales of $56 billion annually. It earned $7.6 billion last year, and $2.9 billion came from the division that includes Carrier. 

United Technologies officials have said the move to Mexico is a pre-emptive necessity to secure the corporation's long-term future and that of its shareholders. But many workers, policymakers, union officials and others cite greed. 

The majority of workers at Carrier in Indianapolis earn $20 per hour or more, with ample overtime. Many earn $60,000 to $70,000 per year, with benefits.  

When the jobs begin moving to Mexico in April 2017, Carrier profits will certainly rise. In Mexico, temporary workers will earn $9.40 a day while permanent workers will take home $19 a day. 

Robert James is the 57-year-old vice president of USW Local 1999 in Indianapolis. He has worked at Carrier for 18 years as a material associate, who drives products to the assembly line. 

“I think the way they handled it was not a good way to handle it,” James said. “I also think it was very disrespectful. Quality of product will decrease being made in Mexico. 

“I would say there is a large amount of anger, a large amount of hurt. You give your life to the job and then they treat you like nothing and that is the way the majority of employees feel.” 

James feels the plant closing will have a major effect on the city of Indianapolis. He knows the Carrier workers spend a lot of money in the city supporting restaurants, gas stations and other small businesses. He also realizes the devastation that will be experienced by Carrier suppliers. 

“We’re still in talks with Carrier,” he said. “Right now we are still in the process of trying to convince Carrier to stay in Indianapolis.” 

But its highly unlikely Carrier will continue to manufacture in Indiana.  

“I think it’s wrong and I think it’s simply the company being greedy,” James said. “And I see our government helping them. These different trade bills and different things of that nature, that’s what’s taking our jobs out of the United States.” 

I am very angry. I felt disrespected. I felt like they pulled the rug from under me and that they don’t care about American workers. Corporate greed is the bottom line.” Juan Martin, Carrier employee

Carrier is a bit rare in that its employees range in age from 18 to 75; the majority of American manufacturing tends to hold a median age in the 50s. 

Kelly Ray Hugunin is the business representative for USW Local 1999 and has seen more millennials working at Carrier because of the current cost of a college education and lack of a guaranteed well-paying desk job upon graduation. 

“It’s a wide range,” Hugunin said. "But we do have some people working in their 70s. We’ve got a guy out there that been working here for 52 years.” 

Hugunin has strong feelings about the move to Mexico. 

“I think it’s a betrayal. I think it’s un-American and I’ve said it before, we grow up and we’re taught to go find a good job and work hard and if we come to work like we’re supposed to, we’re going to be rewarded having decent wages and having that job and here Carrier just took that all away from those people," he said. 

Also at the expense of the American people is the nearly $1.6 million in tax incentives and training to bring Carrier to a favorable situation in Indianapolis. After meeting with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Carrier agreed to return the $1.6 million tax and incentive funds.  

But United Technologies will continue to profit from taxpayer dollars. The company is a major United States military contractor that receives an additional $5.6 billion from the federal government each year. 

"Moving to Mexico, it’s basically greed," Hugunin said. "It’s simply that everything we’ve heard from the company and what they are telling elected officials, it’s just simply about those wages. They want to go down there and exploit those Mexican workers and make their profits. It’s not like they aren’t making profits now. It’s a way to make more profits at the expense of the American people." 

United Technologies did not respond to numerous requests for comment.


This has been reposted from AAM.

Mr. Bonior began his writing career as a reporter and copy editor in 1977 at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He later wrote copy as a voice-over talent in Delray Beach, Florida. Mr. Bonior was born in Detroit to an active, pro-manufacturing, pro-union family, and is a veteran of numerous political and initiative campaigns.

Prior to attending college at Wayne State University and California State University-Long Beach, Mr. Bonior worked at the Macomb County (Michigan) Youth Home, a private road construction firm and Ford Motor Co.

You can follow Jeff Bonior on Twitter: @JeffBoniorAAM.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing