The sea of fluorescent-vested energy sector workers at President Donald Trump’s event in Pennsylvania on Tuesday was composed of individuals who were forced to attend if they wanted the day's pay.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, employees were told by their employer, Royal Dutch Shell, that attendance was not mandatory, but "only those that showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid."
“NO SCAN, NO PAY,” said the rules the company sent to union leaders ahead of the event.
Anyone who opted against attending would be granted an excused absence but would not qualify for overtime pay for the week. The Post-Gazette noted that this means the employees who attended the event and met the overtime threshold on Friday would receive their time and a half, while those who sat out the event would not. None of the employees worked on the day of Trump's event.
The Post-Gazette noted that employees were prohibited from protesting as well.
According to one union leader, who asked not to be named, one day of pay could mean as much as $700 for a worker.
Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said that Tuesday was treated by the company "as a paid training day with a guest speaker who happened to be the President," with workers reportedly engaging in “safety training and other activities” in the morning.
The official White House event was intended to celebrate Trump’s attempts to reinvigorate America’s Rust Belt, which the president said included Shell’s new Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex.
But The Associated Press noted that the complex was not a result of Trump’s doing; Shell announced the project in 2012, when Barack Obama was president.
The manufacturing plant will turn western Pennsylvania’s natural gas deposits into plastics. While the complex is slated to bring 600 permanent jobs to a location that desperately needs the work, critics say it will be the largest source of air pollution in the area.
In Beaver County, where the new plant is located, Trump won by more than 18 percentage points in 2016, the AP noted. But then Democrats picked up steam during the 2018 midterms.
Though Trump attended the event in his official capacity as president, it took on the feel of one of his campaign rallies, with the president lobbing attacks against his opponents and ranting on about wind power.