Size, Timing And Delivery Made Carrier Layoffs High-profile

Mar 24, 2016

 

United Steelworkers members rally outside Carrier in support of workers who are set to lose their jobs to Mexico over the next few years.
Credit Ryan Delaney/WFYI

Steelworkers rallied outside the Carrier factory in Indianapolis Wednesday to protest plans to close the heating and air conditioning plant, sending 1,400 jobs to Mexico.


That announcement was caught on video in February and has drawn national attention. But analysts say the dramatic footage isn't the only reason Carrier is standing out.

 

On Wednesday, trucks honked in support of the 75 or so union members who crowded the factory gates. They included Anthony Washington, who's spent 12 happy years with Carrier.

He says the company was able to unexpectedly turn its back on its workers thanks in part to free trade agreements. Washington thinks those have "allowed these corporations to leave American soil to, for lack of a better word, stick it to the American people."

 

Election season has put the spotlight on free trade, and the video about the Carrier layoffs was even picked up by Donald Trump.

 

Passing cars honked in support of the union workers who protested the Carrier layoffs outside the factory Wednesday.
Credit Ryan Delaney/WFYI

The Indiana Business Research Center’s Carol Rogers says that makes it easy to forget that many Hoosiers work for foreign companies at home, too.

 

"They're thinking about it from the standpoint of those 1,400 workers," she says, "not, perhaps, the tens of thousands of workers that we have in central Indiana who are working for companies that are owned by parents in other countries."

 

But she says Carrier didn't just grab headlines over outsourcing.

 

"In terms of a single announcement, it certainly is large," Rogers says. "Oftentimes what companies do is they start downsizing three, four hundred [workers] every six months, so they'll spread it out."

That's been the case for most of the more than 12,000 layoffs Indiana saw from Jan. 2014 to before the Carrier announcement. More than half of the job cuts or closures in that period affected fewer than 100 people at a time.

In some cases, layoffs in one town coincided with a facility closure somewhere else, or precipitated a closure in the same town a few months later.

 

But Carrier also announced the closure and layoffs all at once, at least a year in advance -- earlier than many companies tend to.

Rogers says it made the news tougher to swallow, but it will give workers plenty of time to job hunt. She notes that state unemployment is down, with new high-paying, skilled jobs that might fit the Carrier employees on the rise.

"That would be the ideal, wouldn't it?" she says. "Transfer to other companies, where they either need the skills they have or you go through some re-skilling [or] up-skilling program."

The Carrier layoffs are set to begin in summer 2017, with the plant closing within a couple of years after that.

 

WFYI's Ryan Delaney contributed reporting from Indianapolis.