The president of the union that represents the workers at an Indianapolis Carrier plant who were the subject of a publicized deal made by President-elect Donald Trump took aim at the Manhattan billionaire Thursday for launching an attack at him the night before.
During a round of TV appearances, Chris Jones, the president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, suggested that it would be strange if Trump didn’t know how many “damn jobs” were being saved in a heavily promoted deal between Carrier and the state of Indiana, which is still being run by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the state’s governor. Jones also said he had no regrets for previously saying Trump was “lying his a– off” about exactly how many jobs were being saved in the deal.
Trump touted his actions as integral in helping to save what the United Technologies CEO said was approximately 1,100 jobs. Carrier actually decided to keep only about 800 jobs and to outsource about 550 to Mexico, said Jones, who suggested that the 1,100 number Trump mentioned when he announced the deal last week may have included 300 jobs that were never among those in line to leave the US.
“What I did was try to get the people to understand that the numbers that Mr. Trump and Gov. Pence made weren’t accurate,” Jones told CNBC. “And I’m not sorry about what I said.”
The back-and-forth began when Jones told The Washington Post Trump “got up there and, for whatever reason, lied his a– off” when announcing the deal with Carrier last week.
Following a Wednesday-night interview on CNN, in which Jones continued to criticize Trump characterization of the deal, Trump tweeted that Jones had “done a terrible job representing workers” and that “no wonder companies flee country!”
The president-elect followed up by writing that if the local chapter of the USW “was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana.”
“Spend more time working-less time talking,” he continued. “Reduce dues.”
Jones said he began receiving death threats following Trump’s tweetstorm, but he said Thursday that it didn’t “affect me one iota,” adding that over his more than 30 years doing work for his union, “nastier things have happened and I’ve got through them, so this is not a big deal by no means.”
Jones was then asked whether Trump could really be blamed for the apparent mischaracterization because Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, provided the number used by Trump.
“Donald Trump in his own words is a skilled negotiator,” Jones said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that one – I’ve heard it numerous times.”
“I’ve negotiated a lot of contracts over 30 years,” he continued. “And one of the things that I would have to assume, that when you’re negotiating something like that you’d know how many damn jobs you’re talking about.”
Jones insisted, as he had in his prior interviews, that he was “very much” grateful for Trump’s getting involved and “saving 800 people’s livelihoods,” but he added, “I want the truth to be known.”
“And that’s what I said – he took exception to that,” Jones said. “All he had to do, in my opinion, was come back and say, ‘I was misled’ … or maybe, ‘I shouldn’t have said what I said.’ Instead of doing that, he went ahead and made an attack on me.”
In addition to the jobs lost at the Indiana plant, United Technologies still plans to relocate its Huntington, Indiana, plant to Mexico, putting another 700 jobs on the chopping block. In total, an estimated 1,300 Carrier employees will still lose their jobs.
The United Steelworkers came to Jones’ aid Wednesday night in a series of tweets aimed at Trump, calling Jones “a hero not a scapegoat,” adding that Trump and others “know about Carrier because of his, members’ tireless work since day 1 to save ALL jobs there.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also came to Jones’ defense, tweeting Thursday that Trump “should not be attacking strong union leaders like Chuck Jones,” adding that “trade unions have helped build the middle class of this country.”
Watch Jones’ CNBC interview below:
Chris Sanchez contributed reporting.