Workers at the new petrochemical plant in Pennsylvania where Donald Trump spoke last week say they were forced to attend the speech or take an unpaid day off. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, workers were told only those who showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours through lunch would be paid.
A reported 5,000 attendees were told “no yelling, shouting, protesting or anything viewed as resistance” will be tolerated at the event. An underlying theme of the event is to promote good will from the unions. Your building trades leaders and jobs stewards have agreed to this," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports — despite the fact that Trump’s speech included political campaigning. Though the event lasted through lunch, workers did not get a break to eat.
In addition, workers who decided not to listen to the president’s speech were told they would qualify for overtime rates that week. Typically, workers have a 56-hour workweek with 16 hours overtime, paid at a rate of time and a half. Those who did not attend the rally would not hit these extra hours.
“This is just what Shell wanted to do and we went along with it,” said Ken Broadbent, a business manager for the labor union, Steamfitters local 449.
“We’re glad to have the jobs. We’re glad to have the project built,” he said. “The president is the president whether we like him or dislike him. We respect him for the title.”
The new $6 billion Royal Dutch Shell petrochemical plant has been under construction since 2017, and is an “ethane” plant. It takes ethane, a natural gas liquid found in some natural gas deposits and processes it — or ‘cracks’ it — into ethylene.
The plant will use the area’s vast natural gas deposits to produce over a million tons of plastic in the form of tiny pellets — environmentalists and community groups say that it could become the largest air polluter in western Pennsylvania.
Trump took full credit for the plant and essentially embracing plastic during his speech at a time when the world is alarming us of it’s impact. “It was the Trump administration that made it possible,“ Trump told workers. “No one else. Without us, you would never have been able to do this.”
He also told workers, “I’m going to speak to some of your union leaders to say, ’I hope you’re going to support Trump. If they don’t, vote them the hell out of office because they’re not doing their job.”
Trump’s visit to the plant was an official White House event, and he was supposed to only address energy in his speech. Taxpayer dollars aren’t supposed to be used for political campaigning, yet Trump used that time to urge union leaders to vote for him.