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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Actually, it’s totally believable. Trump tweeted about it.

Remember Rexnord? Looks like President Trump finally does.

There’s a lot to analyze in those 140 characters. Let’s take a step back.

Back in October, industrial bearings maker Rexnord announced it was moving its operations from Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico, effectively laying off 300 workers. That got some attention, since Rexnord’s facility is located literally right around the corner from the Carrier Corporation plant that President-elect Trump infamously struck a deal to keep open.

And perhaps not surprisingly, President-elect Donald Trump went after Rexnord in December in a strongly worded tweet:

That tweet led some of Rexnord’s employees to hope that Trump would strike a Carrier-esque deal to keep at least some Rexnord jobs in the United States.

But no dice. Trump became president and seemingly moved on. The Indiana plant began the process of shutting down in March. Plenty of stories were written about the Rexnord workers, but radio silence from the White House.

That is, until NBC Nightly News ran a story on the closure on Sunday evening. Then, the Trump tweet.

Now, let’s look at the tweet.

First, it looks like Trump is feeling the heat here. Hence, pinning the blame on the Obama administration.

While we can debate whether former President Barack Obama’s policies created an atmosphere that led Rexnord to decide to offshore jobs — keeping in mind that the 44th president managed to oversee an economy that saw 315,000 new factory jobs in his second term —  it’s a little unfair to blame him directly for these closures (especially considering this guy was governor of Indiana at the time).

The reason that people are paying so much attention to Rexnord specifically is because Trump made such a big deal about his deal to save some of the Carrier jobs. He stepped in to help some Indianapolis manufacturing workers — why not these other Indianapolis manufacturing workers, too? 

United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones — who famously called Trump out over some of his Carrier-related tweets back in the fall — told AAM’s own Scott Paul on The Manufacturing Report last week that Trump’s actions created false hope:

“Give the guy credit he deserves on the jobs that are staying, but it wasn’t as clean-cut as he portrayed it to be. And then Rexnord, another one of our facilities, when it first came up, Trump tweeted out ‘Rexnord firing 300 people, not gonna happen.’ Well, it’s still happening, and people are losing their jobs. With him tweeting that out, gave them a false hope that he was going to do something.”

So, what's to be done about it?

Well, as Trump is apparently starting to learn, being president is hard. There’s a lot to deal with. The president simply does not have the bandwidth to strike individual deals with companies on a case-by-case basis.

What the president can do is work with Congress to implement smart, targeted policy designed to create and sustain manufacturing jobs. He seemed to suggest a policy idea in the second part of his tweet — “Tax product big that’s sold in U.S.” Will tariffs be part of his strategy?

There are quite a few things Trump can do to encourage job growth. Tax reform that promotes exports and domestic manufacturing is one step. Investing in much-needed infrastructure investment (with strong Buy America preferences) is another. Strong trade enforcement — especially taking on China’s massive unchecked industrial overcapacity — is crucial.

One thing is clear: America’s blue-collar workers know Trump has staked his presidency on helping them. They’re watching him closely. They aren’t in the mood for distractions. They want to see results.

And meanwhile in Indiana, Rexnord employees are scared.

 “People just don’t know what the future is going to hold. I’ve talked to quite a few of the folks, and some of them are going into other type of jobs, but I’ve yet to hear anybody that’s going to be anywhere close to making the money that they’re currently are now,” Jones said. “They’re trying to work with their families on where they can cut back at, and what they can do to try to keep things afloat.”