Quantcast

Shell Union Workers Told to Attend Trump Speech or Lose Pay

Politics
Trump speaks to contractors at the Shell Chemicals Petrochemical Complex on Aug. 13 in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Thousands of union members at a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant outside of Pittsburgh were given a choice last week: Stand and wait for a speech by Donald Trump or take the day off without pay.


A contractor that hires the union sent a memo that said, "Your attendance is not mandatory," but only employees who arrived by 7 a.m., scanned their ID cards and stood for hours would be paid, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported.

"NO SCAN, NO PAY," a supervisor for the contractor wrote, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The employees even had to stand through lunch, though they did not eat lunch.

The president's speech at the Royal Dutch Shell facility, where natural gas will be converted into plastic for a wide range of products, was to focus on "America's Energy Dominance and Manufacturing Revival," so it was sponsored by the White House and paid for by taxpayer dollars. However, it quickly went off script to sound like a campaign speech.

Trump took the time to slander Democratic primary candidates, saying, "I don't think they give a damn about Western Pennsylvania, do you?" He also took credit for the construction of the Shell plant, which had first been announced under the Obama administration, telling the workers, "This would have never happened without me and us," as TIME reported.

At one point he even weighed in on the union's management, saying he would speak to them about supporting his reelection campaign. "And if they don't," said Trump to workers, according to The New York Times "vote them the hell out of office, because they're not doing their job."

Contracts for the workers at the plant stipulate that to get paid, the workers must be on site. "This was treated as a paid training day with a guest speaker who happened to be the president," said Ray Fisher, a Shell spokesman, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He said workers engaged in "safety training and other activities" in the morning. Those who chose not to attend would have an excused but unpaid absence, meaning they would miss out on any overtime pay later in the week.

Essentially, union employees at the site work a 56-hour week, with 16 of those hours as overtime, which pays time and a half. Workers who showed up and attended the speech on Tuesday would have enough hours banked to receive overtime pay by Friday. Those who skipped the president's speech would only receive regular pay, despite the fact that neither group would have done any work for the plant on Tuesday.

One union leader who spoke anonymously to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said one day of work might mean $700 in pay, benefits, and a per diem payment that out-of-town workers receive.

The contractor who hired the union also had some strict rules for how the union members should comport themselves during Trump's speech. A memo from the contractor read, "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," as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Despite the rules, union members were bristling with anger and impatience since the event went past 3 p.m., when many of the workers' regular shift ended. The workers worried they would not get paid for the extra time they spent holding in the warehouse, as NBC News reported. Some of the workers tried to leave before the president had finished speaking, but the Secret Service would not let them leave until Trump had left the site.

After Trump's speech, workers were still held in the warehouse and started to boo and let out angry shouts about not being let out. A plant employee tried to calm them by reassuring the employees they would get paid for every moment they were in the plant, according to NBC News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A vegan diet can improve your health, but experts say it's important to keep track of nutrients and protein. Getty Images

By Dan Gray

  • Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
  • A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
  • It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.

New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.

Read More Show Less
Students gathered at the National Mall in Washington DC, Sept. 20. NRDC

By Jeff Turrentine

Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
samael334 / iStock / Getty Images

By Ruairi Robertson, PhD

Berries are small, soft, round fruit of various colors — mainly blue, red, or purple.

Read More Show Less
A glacier is seen in the Kenai Mountains on Sept. 6, near Primrose, Alaska. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the glaciers in the area since 1966 and their studies show that the warming climate has resulted in sustained glacial mass loss as melting outpaced the accumulation of new snow and ice. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Mark Mancini

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

Read More Show Less
Members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America table at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18. Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
StephanieFrey / iStock / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Muffins are a popular, sweet treat.

Read More Show Less
Hackney primary school students went to the Town Hall on May 24 in London after school to protest about the climate emergency. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Caroline Hickman

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?

Read More Show Less
Myrtle warbler. Gillfoto / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bird watching in the U.S. may be a lot harder than it once was, since bird populations are dropping off in droves, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less