AFTER TRUMP: I would pray to God that Donald Trump would reconsider what he is doing and have a talk with some of these people Dominick Patrignani, union president


(adapted from an article in The Guardian)  

Hard by the Hudson river about 14 miles north of Albany, many uni0n workers in Waterford, NY voted for Donald Trump.  Trump’s America First appeal helped him comfortably beat Hillary Clinton in Saratoga County.  The sprawling Momentive Performance Materials factory in Waterford has supplied generations of upstate New Yorkers with secure, well-paid, blue-collar jobs.

The workers had reason to be upset,  In 2008, Momentive slashed production workers’ wages by 25%-50%. In 2013 the company froze pensions for workers younger than 50. This time they came after healthcare, especially retiree healthcare. So as Mr. T won election, workers went on strike at Momentive  hoping to fight off a new contract that would have slashed their healthcare and retirement benefits.  The union lost.

Now, after 105 days on strike and a tense, highly public battle, the billionaires have won. Momentive’s workers returned to the factory last week following a few days of “sensitivity training” to help them work with “scab” labour brought in to cover during the strike. The deal they struck has left many of them unhappy and worried about not just their futures but those of the many workers in similar situations across the US who contacted them during the strike.
The plant has a tie to Trump. Since it was sold by General Electric in 2006, one of its major investors has been Blackstone, the private equity firm run by Stephen Schwarzman, Donald Trump’s billionaire “jobs czar”. He is one of six billionaires – including the largest shareholder, Leon Black of Apollo Global – listed as Momentive backers. Between them they have a personal fortune of $24.6bn.

“I would pray to God that Donald Trump would reconsider what he is doing and have a talk with some of these people, especially Mr Schwarzman, about what is going on here in Waterford,” Dominick Patrignani, president of the IUE/CWA Local 81359 union, told the Times Union as negotiations unfolded. “We are extremely concerned with the loss of jobs, and this guy is supposed to be the new czar of job creation and growth.”  “I was naive to this. I didn’t realise they were doing this all across the country,” said Robert Hohn, a Momentive employee for 16 years. The new deal leaves Hohn with an uncertain future as he attempts to cope with already outsized medical bills for his disabled wife. “We are not looking to own boats and yachts and stuff like that. We are looking to pay our mortgage. We are looking to send our kids and our grandkids to college. That’s all we are looking for it’s just something basic, simple, the everyday American dream needs.”

There is a quiet anger to Jack Mack’s voice after the vote. A controlled, methodical man with eyes as sharp as the birds of prey he loves, he picks his words carefully but there is no disguising his frustration and disappointment. “It’s not good, it’s not good,” he says. “Given the situation to make the right decision, the correct moral decision, they refused to do it. I mean, it’s plain and simple. We work in a hazardous environment and here we are fighting for healthcare.”

In the meantime, the fortunes of Momentive’s owners and senior management have grown. The current CEO, the aptly named John Boss, took home $5.4m in salary and other compensation in 2015. His 2016 salary will be disclosed shortly; no one is expecting him to take a pay cut.


Your Comment