Tariffs Create Tension For Factory Workers Who Supported Trump | NPR

Tariffs Create Tension For Factory Workers Who Supported Trump | NPR

Chris Pratt: You’re probably not going to find many people out there in our plant that are going to say, “No, I didn’t vote for President Trump.” Michelle Spurgeon: I think he’s honestly, honestly, honestly trying to do good for these United States. Philip Bennett: Trump made a lot of good promises. He’s done a lot of them, but nowhere in there did it say, “Hey, I’m going to raise the tariffs on this and then affect my job.” Alex Collins: I kind of question myself a little bit on, on that decision that I made on voting for him. David Greene: This is Poplar Bluff, It’s a community of 17,000 people in southeastern Missouri. In 2016, nearly 80 percent of voters here supported Donald Trump, including many of the workers at one of the biggest businesses in town — Mid Continent Nail. Mid Cont, as it’s known here, is the largest nail manufacturer in the United States. But lately, it’s been in a tough spot. Donald Trump: Steel is steel. You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country. Our country, on trade, has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world. We’ll be imposing tariffs on steel imports and tariffs on aluminum imports, and you’re gonna see a lot of good things happen. You’re gonna see expansions. David: Mid Cont used to get most of its steel from Mexico, and so Trump’s 25 percent tariff hit them hard. Their only hope now is an exemption from that tariff — one they are not sure is going to come. We sat down with some of Mid Cont’s employees to ask them how they reconcile their support for the president with their uncertain future. Paige Spencer: Two dogs, white picket fence, husband, or wife, whichever it is, in your three-bedroom house. That’s the American dream, you know? David: Do you guys have it right now? Paige: We’re not completely there yet. We’ve struggled, we’re struggling. Financially, you know? It’s been a battle. David: First, Alex and Paige. They’re engaged, and they’re planning a wedding. We visited them, and their pets, to talk about the tariffs that are threatening Alex’s job just as they’re working to build a life together. Paige used to work at Mid Cont, but she left because things were so uncertain. Now, she opens at a cafe, and after her day ends, she drives Alex to work the night shift at Mid Cont. They almost never see each other because they’re working such long hours, but they’re hoping it will pay off in the long run. For now, they need this job — just like many other employees at Mid Cont. Michelle: There’s a lot of people that are nervous, you know? We’re all kind of sitting here in limbo not knowing whether or not we’re going to have a job next week or whatever. David: Are you nervous? Michelle: No … My philosophy is, it is what it is. David: There are some people who I think look at this and they’re like, “President Trump imposed these tariffs, the tariffs have affected the company.” It’s like a really simple story. Um. But you seem to disagree with them and see more, some more forces at work. Michelle: I do. Ultimately with President Trump putting the tariff tax on here, he’s trying to bring everything back here to the United States, and I understand that. David: I mean, have you lost any faith in him … Michelle: No. David: … since this tariff went into effect? Michelle: No. It’s hard right now, and a lot of times when things are hard, they’re gonna get harder until they start getting better. That’s just a fact of life. He’s not trying to divide us. He’s not trying to tear us apart. He’s trying to bring more closer together. Philip: I don’t think I’ve ever had a job where I’ve been taken care of as well as I have here. My daughter, you know, she’s had two open heart surgeries. She’s had a stint, a balloon. Lots of procedures on her heart. They don’t question me. They give me … They make sure I’m covered. They take care of me. David: You’ve lost workers, and there were some predictions that the company would close down. What has that been like? Philip: I’m not going to lie, like for the first while I was terrified. Now I’ve kind of gotten to where I try not to think about it ’cause it’s affecting everything else that I do. Like when we lost all the people and the machines that, you know, aren’t running. It’s sad. ’Cause I know who used to run that machine. I know they had kids. Or they had bills. You know, they were here day in and day out and then now they’re gone. Just because somebody doesn’t want to give us an exemption. David: So you don’t have faith he’s going to … Philip: No. David: … give you the exemption? Philip: Not after this long. He kind of made it sound like he cared about the American worker. Apparently he doesn’t care about the nail business. David: So are you a Democrat who voted for Trump in …? Philip: Yeah. David: OK. Philip: Yeah a lot of people gave me, they’re like “What?” “Really?” Trump made a lot of good promises. He’s done a lot of them, but nowhere in there did it say, “Hey I’m going to raise the tariffs on this, or I’m gonna do this,” and then affect my job. I wouldn’t have even seen that coming. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t vote for him again. David: You wouldn’t? Phillip: No. Chris: All these tariffs were put in place for a reason. I think they did what they thought was the right thing at that time. They weren’t thinking about all the consequences, the downstream manufacturing facilities that are going out of business. You know, you know there’s an issue with a policy if you have 20,000 exclusion requests. David: All companies like yours that have been hit by this? Chris: That’s correct. And if there are 20,000 exclusion requests, that means there’s a definite problem with the policy. We’re very transparent with our employees. They know that we’ve been fighting against imports from other countries. So to them when he was saying, “Let’s make America great.” “Let’s keep American jobs.” They were all thinking “Hey, he’s gonna help us. He’s gonna help us fight the battle against those imports. And he’s gonna keep our jobs.” And in reality, right now, we’re fighting a battle, right now, against our own country. And that doesn’t seem right. Jimmy: I’ve been a mechanic, a welder, fabricator, pipe bender, I’ve been holding wrenches for 20 plus years. I love it. David: What do you like about it? Jimmy: Um, I get to create every day. Fabricate something every day. Make something new. Help design something. Make our machines run a little better. David: So how hard has it been to watch this company go through a really hard time this year? Jimmy: It’s rough. I mean, these people are family to me. You know, I have 500 brothers and sisters here. Well, not anymore. You know, I’ve been in Poplar Bluff and the surrounding area for 13 years, and there’s not 500 jobs out there. It’s gonna hurt if anything happens to this place. I voted, and I back our president 100 percent. If he was here right now, I’d shake his hand. He knows, um, what’s best for us and the country. I think it’s hitting us pretty hard, and some of those policies are a little misguided, but for the overall good of America, I think he’s doing what’s right. David: So you’re basically saying that if this company, if you, if your brothers and sisters here have to sacrifice, it’s, you trust him that it’s for a greater good? Jimmy: I do. I can’t speak for everybody, but I do. David: What is it about him that keeps you believing in him so strongly? Jimmy: He can’t be bought. I think he’s true and sincere. He’s a businessman. I know he can run this business. I know he can run America. That’s the ultimate business. And if he’s a businessman, you might want to listen. Alex: Well I mean, get off work 7 o’clock in the morning. God I wish I slept more. I make $10.25 an hour. Which I mean that’s higher than minimum wage in Missouri, and I mean that’s not bad for around here, but considering the amount of work I do, I feel like I, I mean I should get paid more. David: For you guys, I mean trying to make ends meet, and trying to get that dream, and working your butts off, when you look at Donald Trump, if there’s a connection there, what is it? Alex: Him being just as human as us. The fact that he, he failed how many times before he finally succeeded? I’m sure he had a better upbringing than I did, you know. I’m sure his parents had more money than my parents, you know, ever did. And he had it a bit easier, but he, I mean he still worked hard for what he got, you know? David: What were you hoping for yourself, like in terms of what Trump might bring you? Alex: Better opportunities to better my life. More opportunities. You know, better pay, more jobs. David: And so far you’re not totally feeling it? Alex: No. David: But you sound like you’re open-minded, like you’re giving him these two more years to kind of see what happens. Alex: I mean anybody can make a change. You know, and everybody deserves a second chance. You know, or to continue on the chance they still got. If he can show results and, you know, make things happen, then I mean he’ll have my support again, but until then, I mean, it’s yet to be seen.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. I feel sad for these people. Desperately hoping for this conman to deliver on his promises of success. Too bad he's better at failing than any actual financial success

  2. The Don The Conman tRump is bought, and too stupid to lead, that’s why he could not consider the outcome for these workers.

  3. How does Chump know what's good for the country when he went bankrupt so many times? He doesn't pay his workers? He steals from his non-profit organization? He cheated the poor and elderly with his Chump-U?….

  4. There is a much bigger issue then the plants down there, it is a huge meth area, I lived there for 5 years and it is in bad shape. I moved there from Chicago, and I am back in Chicago.

  5. "He can't be bought"
    Immediately after:
    "He's a business man"

    I mean, even if Trump wasn't Trump (lying sociopathic narcissist), how do you think those 2 sentences connect… Businessmen can totally be bought. That's like…their job.

  6. he has LITERALLY BEEN bought – multiple times… He has even claimed it in his speeches about who gives him millions of dollars… it's like people don't hear the horrible words he is saying… And he's a "business man" who has lost millions, and failed his businesses – multiple times.

  7. LMFAO!! It's absolutely hilarious watching these Trumpanzee fools starting to regret voting for Agolf Twittler. They fell for the con man, and they deserve it. Try educating yourself to facts instead of alt right bullshit. And how the hell does that one idiot with a sick child, back a Republiclan party that wants to take away his pre-existing care coverage?!! Pure moronic thinking.

  8. To be honest, I don't feel sorry for them. Chinese repeatly says China and US can work together, we can cooperate and make things work. I dont mind two counties compete in a good way, cos this competition will benifit all of us. but US want a fight, alright you have it , good luck.

  9. I'm honestly surprised that no one blamed Obama for the negative consequences of the trump tariffs lol. These people are brainwashed and actually think this ego maniac, most corrupt president ever cares about them? Wow. So sad.

  10. Because of progress and automation, factory jobs that these people are wishing for will NEVER return. Best to go to college and get a higher tier of skill. America is no longer a middle skill country that requires factory workers. People need to get up and do some learning.

    I am Asian and I approve this message.

  11. Trump sold and continues to sale himself as a business man that, sees a bigger picture than the blue collar can; simply using his 'successes' as the ultimate burden of proof.

  12. Is Mexico dumping steel into America ? Does American steel cost that much more or can't they get American steel ? Where are these questions. ( from a retired Canadian steel worker whose company has been hit by the 25 % tariff ).

  13. It's very sad. First production is more expensive; then because of retaliatory tariffs it's harder to export. Sales will drop drastically. And for the rest of the countries the game is substitution; it's gonna be extremely hard to recover since the rest of the world no longer trusts on the US as a reliable business partner.

  14. So losing your job/business is beneficial in the long run? You really think business will come back? These companies will never recover, they lost to the competition because of the tariffs. They will have to raise prices to try to stay in business, while their competitors lower prices because of their record sales.

  15. There's no hope for trump supporters. They will throw their lives away blindly for a failed business man who went bankrupt 6 times, its ironic now these companies will be following his trend

  16. It’s easy to brainwash people this fucking stupid. These are the same group of retards that chanted “Build that wall”, build that wall for what? To keep the Mexicans from taking your jobs? Trump just handed all your jobs to the rest of the world! “Build that wall!” For what? To keep crime out of your town? With no jobs in your town the closest criminal will be your neighbor when they start getting desperate enough. I hope these morons vote for trump again, so that they lose their jobs and beg for welfare they can’t get because they voted that away too. Idiots. I would rather these people come to their senses but their simple way of thinking would never allow themselves to question themselves like an evolved human being.

  17. I just do not understand how ppl like this who are being crushed by this imbecile in the White House continue to believe in him. It’s a true cult of personality. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever.

  18. “He’s a businessman”. Ummm dude , you realize he was born with a silver spoon and has bankrupted numerous companies. Hello?

  19. Sounds like people who want a better life voting for the person who promised them a better life. Isn’t that all American voters?

  20. I find it hilarious that white people still believe in him make excuses for him even give him the benefit of the doubt….but the craziest shit they say is that he knows what's good for the country? How? And they keep saying He's a business man but living in NYC you know trump isn't the smart business man the man can't run a casino how the fuck can he run a country

  21. WOW "its gonna keep getting harder and harder until it gets better" by that analogy when you go to your doctor and he messes up your surgery you get worse and suffer and then he messes up your meds you suffer more but then after many mistakes he notices his mistakes and corrects it will you be happy? The only problem is trump wont fix ANYTHING he will do the ONLY thing he knows and that is to BLAME others in my previous analogy he would just blame his PA! In real life LEADERS take full and ultimate responsibility for everything that happens on their watch. But what do you expect when you elect the bankruptcy king who claimed unemployment was as high was 49%…. "it could be folks" its so sad to see how unbelievably stupid a lot of americans are… hey lets elect a greedy racist egomaniac who has no experience and no moral values to the highest office! Did these morons even listen to trump at all??? HE DIDNT EVEN PASS 1 IMMIGRATION BILL and they had the house and senate… where is the wall… and why is mexico not paying for it?

  22. NPR fake news!!!!! people have bad and good in their lives all the time. People loose their jobs all the time. Life happens deal with it! If there where no tariff's the country would have have gone under from the tariff cheating CHINA and other countries.

  23. Good. They need to be in eternal torment in the 9th level of HELL!!!😂😂😂 People died because of your vote shitbags. I want your heads on a silver platter.

  24. Trump is so dumb. Does he not know tariffs are “reciprocal”? Like he assumes countries will be blackmailed. You throw in $5 billion in tariffs ,countries will do the same. The trade imbalance only got bigger due to his stupid senseless actions. He is a flaming idiot and the joint chiefs need to step in. He is too stupid and Does not understand the trade imbalance is our premium to be the worlds top dog. He thinks its because of stupid policy. It was by design dumbass!! When you are a country’s top customer they are essentially your bitch and have a revolving debt they pay you through other means like influenced UN votes, military joint operations, intel flow, foreign US military basis , and different ways america sees as an opportunity to exploit revolving debt by export-heavy nations. By balancing trade u are essentially balancing the power structure, something that is against americas best interest. Just a fixated fucking dumbass. As a result, people in US export businesses are losing their jobs .They need to begin using the u-6 jobs report that shows the real unemployment figure which is well past 8%. People in Atlanta are losing jobs left and right over here. Its starting to get crazy.

  25. gee he promised so much and delivered so much, yeh right two dickheads in the supreme court dirtier air dirtier water , rising violent and sex crimes, higher prices higher medical bills , higher trade deficit , higher national debt , to give uneeded tax cuts to his rich friends , and lots of low paying service jobs, hes done so much, and why are americans paying or not paying for the nonsensical wall

  26. Economists tried to warn you what Trump's trade policies would do to impact American jobs. You didn't listen. You prefered listening to a buffoon in office. I'm sorry for what's happening to you, but it takes Trump supporters to realize with harsh consequences. Trump only cares about his companies benefiting.

  27. Hahahaha!!! Ain't that some shit Poplar Bluff??? Dumb mofo's. I can't believe they give you an exit off 70. Hahahaha!!!!

  28. a little pain for gain, china is dumping cheap steal on our borders, so what should he do? allow china to kill u.s steal from regaining! no one said it would be easy to those our markets

  29. I see there many liberals fast to jump on this hurting america more to regain dem power, they don't care about these peoples and jobs!! china is dumping cheap steal on our borders, so what should he do? allow china to kill u.s steal from regaining! no one said it would be easy to those our markets

  30. NPR the liberal mouth and you know how the media is total %90 liberal dem! I see there many liberals fast to jump on this hurting america more to regain dem power, they don't care about these peoples and jobs!! china is dumping cheap steal on our borders, so what should he do? allow china to kill u.s steal from regaining! no one said it would be easy to those our markets

  31. O Man. the machinist needs some time off for reading and the internet. He is totally in the dark. Listen to them. they don't know he got 140million, ripped off all his contractors, bankrupt business after business, cheats, lies. "he can't be bought" this is the worst misconception I have heard. Listen to me. I am all American. a veteran, no legal problems, some education, you can trust me when I say trump is a monster. He has done none of these things. he doesn't even have a fart of how to run this country. he is killing us economically. these tariffs are just something he heard about and off he went. I know you MAGA's are busy but start watching some youtube congressional hearings and try to figure out what is happening with this man in the executive branch so we can fix America. He has broken it. He has umpteen unfilled cabinet slots. no one is running the country. All our allies hate him because they know he is a fraud. he did none of those things he bragged about in the rallies. Please, observe him. he is all show and no knowledge. just greed. he cares not for me or you. he doesn't even like his own son., T rump jr.

  32. It is so heart warming to see such patriotism. Just remember your job lose is for the greater good. After all somebody has got to pay for all that golfing.

  33. It really baffles me how stupid the American people are in general. It's very discouraging. These sub-humans really thought voting door Trump was a good idea.

  34. So, I guess that woman's thought processes "it is what it is"…. fuck-it!! What??!👀
    Que Sera Sera…🤷🏾‍♀️

  35. @7:33 — "He's a businessman, he can't be bought" Tell that to T-mobile and the hundreds of other corporations that use their money to lift tariffs/ sanctions.

  36. A close friend of mine is a manager and minority shareholder of a small-ish manufacturing company. They regularly make parts that are shipped to Lockheed for defense. Been using Chinese Steele forever. Friend said that even with the 25% tariff it’s STILL cheaper to buy from China – and so they continue to do so. This has put incredible pressure on them as they have to raise prices to their clients like Lockheed, which in turn pass those higher prices onto us, the consumer and taxpayers.

    So we’re all paying more, business is tightening, and the end result is they are STILL buying Chinese, and not American, as this genius plan was supposed to make happen.

  37. Wow! It’s heart breaking to hear this guy with the beard speak. It’s so obvious that he has a very level of knowledge. He truly doesn’t see the reality of it all. What he says about Trump ! What do we owe this lack of knowledge to? Is it our country failing our country men with the education system? Is it purposely done to keep the little people ignorant as much as possible? How can someone like Trump be president in this country and get away with what he does? I’m puzzled! I’m sorry for you, guy with beard, I wish you the best of life. Good luck.

  38. Poor ignorant bastards they fell for the okie-doke that's the problem with white America they think they are needed. China has shown that you are not, no one needs anything from a race of people that thinks they're better. The past is in the past the best way to make America great is to coexist and move forward you cannot generate power going backwards and stop feeling sorry for yourself you voted the imbecile in.

  39. To the lady who said Trump is trying to bring us together. Have you actually listened to any of his speeches? He is nothing but a divider.

  40. To the 'He can't be bought' guy. Donald was born with a silver spoon. He has no clue how us working class are. He is entirely out of touch with our needs. He had driven his own companies into bankrupty and has screwed over his workers time and time again. What is it about some folks where they just refuse facts? I don't get it. The guy is a terrible President.

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