Bernie Sanders has an idea to keep Carrier from moving jobs to Mexico

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is pressuring president-elect Donald Trump to use United Technologies' defense contracts and other incentives as leverage to prevent it from moving its Carrier air conditioning jobs to Mexico.

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File
Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) speaks during a Capitol Hill rally in November.

US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont called on President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday to uphold his promise to keep American jobs at home, asking him to block American manufacturer United Technologies Corp. from moving jobs to Mexico in 2017, as Mr. Trump vowed to do during the election.

“During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. All of us need to hold Mr. Trump accountable to make sure that he keeps this promise,” Senator Sanders said in a statement over the weekend.

He called on Trump to make it clear to the chief executive of United Technologies, which manufactures heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration equipment, and has received upwards of $6 billion in defense contracts, according to Sanders, that if the company moves jobs to Mexico, it will not receive another government contract from the “taxpayers of this country.”

Sanders and Trump, both of whom campaigned in the presidential election on promises to keep American jobs at home, seized on United Technologies’ announcement in February as a real-life example of how free-trade agreements hurt American workers. At a Republican debate around the time of the company’s announcement, Trump said that as president he would tax United Technologies’ Mexico-made products.

“I'm going to tell them right now, I am going to get consensus from Congress and we're going to tax you when those air conditioners come,” said Trump, according to a debate transcript published by The Washington Post.

Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies announced in February that it would shutter two plants. One is in Indianapolis and is run by United Technologies unit Carrier Corp. The other plant is in Huntington and is run by United Technologies Electronic Controls, which manufactures microprocessor-based controls for the HVAC and refrigeration industries for its Fortune 500 parent company, which brings in $65 billion in revenue, as the Indianapolis Business Journal reports.

On Twitter Thursday, Trump said he was "working hard, even on Thanksgiving" to get the company to stay in the US, and that he was "making progress." Carrier confirmed that it discussed the matter with the incoming administration, but didn’t offer any more details.

United Technologies, which has operated in Indiana since the early 1950s, says it’s moving plants to Mexico to cut costs. There, cheap labor and the country’s extensive trade relationships (which make exporting from Mexico cheaper than from other parts of the world) have made Mexico a hub of global manufacturing in the 22 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiated trade among the US, Canada, and Mexico. As the Indianapolis Star points out, the average wage for United Technology workers who are union members is about $23 an hour, which is nearly four times the salaries paid to workers in Mexico.

In his statement, Sanders painted a picture of United as a company that is harming American workers out of greed rather than necessity, which, he says is “representative of how so many multi-national corporations are taking advantage of our rigged economic system.”

“United Technologies is not going broke,” said Sanders. “Last year, the company’s five highest paid executives made over $50 million. The firm also spent $12 billion to inflate its stock price instead of using that money to invest in new plants and workers.”

Sanders said he is readying to introduce legislation that aims to block companies that outsource jobs from winning federal contracts or receiving grants and loans, and that forces them to pay an outsourcing penalty tax and pay back tax breaks.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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