Navy contract great for many, but not a cure-all.
For Chauncey Hughes, a 31-year-old cook at a Green Bay Buffalo Wild Wings, President Donald Trump’s Thursday visit to Wisconsin didn’t do much.
Hughes has been out of work for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he’s watched as Trump has touted the economy in recent weeks after unemployment rates took an unexpected dip. Trump, with his economic fixation, visited the Badger State for a Fox News-hosted town hall in Green Bay and a speech at Fincatieri Marine Group in Marinette, a shipbuilder that recently secured a $5.6 billion Navy contract.
“The economy is not as great as it’s being said to be,” said Hughes, who attended a protest at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, where Air Force One was parked as Trump gave his town hall. “There are lots of people who go without every day.”
The national unemployment rate was 13.3 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wisconsin’s economy was performing a bit better in May, with a 12 percent unemployment rate, according to the Department of Workforce Development. The economy is officially in recession amid the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed the lives of about 120,000 Americans.
In Marinette, about 55 miles north of Green Bay, Miranda Lindquist was sitting on her porch eating lunch. Lindquist, an employee at a local foundry that manufactures auto parts, has been laid off periodically during the pandemic due to a lack of orders.
“We’re just shut down for two weeks (and) when we do work, our paychecks are smaller,” said Lindquist, who described herself as a somewhat tepid Trump supporter. “It’s been hit or miss.”
The significance of Fincatieri’s contract cannot be overstated for the industrial town of about 11,000. It’s expected to create up to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs over the next 10-15 years, but it does little to help those like Lindquist who don’t work at the Marine Group.
And although Trump traveled to the shipbuilder to speak, he had little to do with it. It was the fruit of a bipartisan effort that culminated this year with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers awarding the Port of Marinette a $29 million grant to perform upgrades to build the new line of frigates.
“This town is growing with or without (Trump),” said Wendell Myers, a strong Trump supporter who lives in Marinette. He said the lion’s share of the credit should go to local legislators.
Amy Schwaba, program chair for the Marinette County Democratic Party, echoed that sentiment.
“He’s going to claim that all of us can thank him for what we have,” Schwaba said. “It was in place long before he came along.”
Back in Green Bay, 23-year-old Sabrina Johnkins was also at the airport protesting the president. She said any credit Trump takes for economic recovery “is a load of bulls–t.”
“I don’t know how he’s going to act like he’s doing everything for us,” said Johnkins, who is currently unemployed. Before the pandemic hit, she was doing a stint with AmeriCorps, but the pandemic meant her contract got cut short.
Sebastian Savard works in computer systems for a community college in Escanaba, Michigan, about 55 miles north of Marinette. He said that while he has remained employed throughout the pandemic, he and other faculty worry for the college’s students, many of whom are unemployed and missed out on the $1,200 federal stimulus check because their parents claim them as dependents.
“There’s still a lot of assistance needed from the federal government,” Savard said, adding that the push to reopen businesses is only “to kick you off unemployment.”