Though employee attendance was not mandatory, thousands of workers at a western Pennsylvania petrochemical plant were given a choice last week. Show up and stay for President Donald Trump's speech on Wednesday, or stay home and lose some of their weekly pay.
A memo originally obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, noted that those who opted against attending Trump's address would have an excused, unpaid absence and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday.
"NO SCAN, NO PAY" read part of the memo.
The memo made it appear that if employees did not attend the event, they would lose some of their pay for the week. The workers were also reportedly told that "anything viewed as resistance" to Trump was prohibited.
Ray Fisher, a spokesman for Shell, did not fully deny the allegations, but also tried to clarify the situation. Fisher said that employees that opted to stay away from the speech would still be paid for the week, but less than those who scanned in and were on site Wednesday.
The company "does these several times a year, with various speakers," Fisher said. The day “was treated as a training day with a guest speaker, who happened to be the President.”
Two workers, who spoke off the record, told NBC News they were missing their lunch break to attend and hid snacks in their pockets because they weren’t allowed to bring in food. One worker said he didn’t really want to come, but thought it would look bad to miss a day of work and wanted to get his full pay.
Many of the workers tried to leave early, before Trump had even finished, but they were told Secret Service would not let them out of the warehouse until Trump had left the property. Trump then took a tour of the construction site after his speech, leaving some workers disgruntled and ready to leave.
Several workers said a lot of people didn’t show up because they don’t like Trump, particularly the strong union supporters. The White House, however, hopes the massive construction project will serve as a symbol of the Trump economy in a key swing state.