The President’s efforts to promote job growth in the US manufacturing sector are being undermined by his controversial political stances and statements.
President Donald Trump has decided to disband the council of his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. The announcement came Wednesday morning, amidst a large exodus of the council’s membership in response to the President’s comments regarding a recent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, VA. By Tweet, the president said:
“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”
As of Wednesday, several members of President Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative had departed including: Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck; Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank; Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing; Richard Trumka, of the AFL-CIO, along with Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s deputy chief of staff; 3M CEO Inge Thulin; and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.
“ I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. … I am not a politician. I am an engineer who has spent most of his career working in factories that manufacture the world’s most advanced devices. Yet, it is clear even to me that nearly every issue is now politicized to the point where significant progress is impossible. Promoting American manufacturing should not be a political issue.”
Under Armour’s Plank, echoed Krzanich’s sentiment, expressing a desire to focus on technological innovation over political entanglements. In a statement released by Under Amour, Plank said, “We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing. However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics …” In the past year Under Armour has gained attention for applying 3D printing techniques to shoe design and manufacturing.
Paul, of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, tweeted about his departure, saying, “… it’s the right thing to do.”
President Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, first announced back in January, was supposed to be a think tank, bringing together the most prominent business leaders in American manufacturing to tackle the problem of creating job growth in the manufacturing sector. At its inception the council boasted CEOs from companies including Tesla, Ford, Dow Chemical, Dell, Lockheed-Martin, and General Electric among its 28 members. However over the course of the year the council had been steadily dwindling, with the largest exodus coming this week.
An Exodus Sparked by Protest
During the weekend of August 12 several white supremacist groups, including the KKK, and those that identify with the conservative Alt-Right movement, descended on the city of Charlottesville, N.C., to protest the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The gathering, called the largest white supremacist gathering in at least a decade by several media outlets, attracted large groups of counter-protestors, as well.
Tensions between the two groups culminated on August 12, when 20-year-old Ohio resident James Alex Fields Jr. drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, seriously injuring 19 people and killing one, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a resident of Charlottesville.
The President Responds
There was an outcry for the President to speak out about the violence in Charlottesville, and to condemn the white nationalist groups behind the protests. But many felt the President’s response, which said the violence was on “many sides,” was, at best, an inadequate response and, at worst, an implicit condoning of white supremacy.
What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. #Charlottesville pic.twitter.com/DB22fgnu6L
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
“Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either,” the President told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
At that same conference, when asked why he believed CEOs were leaving the manufacturing council, the President accused members of the council of being at odds with his plans to reshore more jobs back to the US:
“Because [these CEOs] are not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country. … We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they are leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside and I’ve been lecturing them … about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.”