Guest Commentary

KC Harley-Davidson workers were hurt by Trump’s broken promises

Kevin Amos, holding dog Ruby, with (left to right) daughter Isabella, 11, wife Becky and son Nash, 9.
Kevin Amos, holding dog Ruby, with (left to right) daughter Isabella, 11, wife Becky and son Nash, 9.

When President Donald Trump was in Missouri last week, stumping for his Republican cronies, he stood before adoring crowds and proclaimed: “America is booming. America is thriving. America is winning.” He used his favorite new slogan: “Promises made, promises kept.”

To me and the 800 other workers in Kansas City who are being sent to the unemployment line by Harley-Davidson, it feels more like, “Promises broken.”

When I started building motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson plant almost two decades ago, it was a dream come true. Not only was I creating a product that represents the essence of America — strong, tough, gritty and beautiful — but I also was earning enough to build a good future for my family.

That American dream came crashing down when Harley-Davidson announced in January that it was closing our plant while opening a new plant in Thailand. A few days later, Harley-unveiled a $696 million stock buyback plan to further enrich its shareholders. Those of us who worked hard to build products beloved by millions of Americans — and build up an iconic American company — were left with nothing.

In the months that followed, we watched as the community around us was devastated by the news. Workers at suppliers — such as Syncreon, which does sub-assembly and other work for our plant — were laid off and small businesses that depend on our patronage were impacted.

For the 400 of us who are left on the plant floor, we are wracked with anxiety about what will happen when we clock out for the last time in May.

Older workers wonder if they will be turned away by manufacturing employers. Less-skilled workers wonder if they will be able to find a job that pays at the same level. For me, I wonder how I will continue to support my wife and two children.

Six months ago, Bob Martinez, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, sent a letter to Trump asking him for help. We have yet to receive a response.

Unfortunately, we’re not alone. More than 160,000 American workers have lost their jobs to offshoring since Trump was elected. And offshoring by companies that are supported by our taxpayer dollars is skyrocketing. Companies like Harley-Davidson — which has received billions in taxpayer subsidies and earned billions more through Trump’s tax bill — are getting rich off our taxpayer dollars while outsourcing jobs.

The truth is that as CEO of America, Inc., Trump could stop companies such as Harley-Davidson from offshoring our jobs. All he would have to do is sign an executive order telling corporations that want to do business with the federal government that they can’t send American jobs overseas.

Instead, Trump is rewarding these companies with lucrative federal contracts. In fact, a new study by Good Jobs Nation shows that Trump has awarded more than $52 billion in federal contracts to companies that offshore jobs.

That’s why I’m joining a growing movement of working-class people who are telling the truth about the president’s broken promises.

Trump won the White House because working-class voters believed him when he said he would be a workers’ champion. The truth is that he’s done the opposite. In the nearly two years that he’s been in office, he’s pursued policies that are nothing less than a war on workers.

It’s time for Trump to keep his promises to America’s working people.

Kevin Amos is president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 176, which represents workers at the Harley-Davidson plant in Kansas City.

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