Thousands of union workers at a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant being built outside Pittsburgh were given the choice of attending a speech by President Trump on Tuesday or staying away — and losing some of their pay for the week.
“Your attendance is not mandatory,” one of the construction site’s contractors wrote in rules for the speech that were shared with its employees, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which first reported on the matter. But the rules said that only those who arrived at 7 a.m., had their work IDs scanned and then stood waiting for the president for several hours would get paid for the time.
“NO SCAN, NO PAY,” a supervisor for the contractor wrote, according to the paper.
The president’s appearance at the Royal Dutch Shell facility in Beaver County, where natural gas will be converted into plastic for a wide range of products, was publicized as a speech about energy, but it was hard to distinguish it from a standard campaign rally. Mr. Trump repeatedly targeted rivals and aired his political grievances.
At one point, Mr. Trump said he was going to speak to some of the union leaders representing the assembled workers about supporting his re-election. “And if they don’t,” Mr. Trump told the workers, “vote them the hell out of office, because they’re not doing their job.”
Ray Fisher, a spokesman for Shell, said in an email to The Times that workers who didn’t show up for the speech would still have gotten paid for their workweek, but not as much as those who scanned in and stayed on site all day.
The day “was treated as a training (work) day with a guest speaker who happened to be the president,” Mr. Fisher said in the email.
“We do these several times a year with various speakers,” he said, adding that there was a morning session before the speech that started at 7 a.m. and lasted for three hours. It “included safety training and other work-related activities,” Mr. Fisher said.
“It was understood some would choose not to attend the Presidential visit and were given the option to take paid time off” instead, he wrote. “As with any workweek, if someone chooses to take PTO,” he said, referring to paid time off, “they are not eligible to receive the maximum overtime available.”
According to The Post-Gazette, workers were told that “anything viewed as resistance” to Mr. Trump would not be tolerated at the event, which, the workers were told, was intended to foster “good will” with the building trade unions.
The decision was greeted with acceptance by some union leaders.
“This is just what Shell wanted to do, and we went along with it,” Ken Broadbent, a business manager for Steamfitters Local 449, told The Post-Gazette. He said that workers respected the office of the president, and that people could have chosen not to show up.
A White House spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment.
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