Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh). (Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0))

Executives and companies that have outsourced Wisconsin jobs have contributed more than $77,000 to Johnson, an outspoken supporter of overseas manufacturing that’s “dirt cheap.”

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has received $77,400 over the years from people and firms engaged in outsourcing work to other states and countries, according to a review of campaign finance records provided to UpNorthNews 

Johnson, a two-term senator who said earlier this year he would not ask a hometown manufacturer to locate about 1,000 new jobs in Oshkosh, has a history of comments that suggest he supports outsourcing jobs.

“To me, it makes no sense for American workers to produce high-labor-content products,” Johnson said in September 2020 to the Commercial Association of Realtors-Wisconsin, as reported at the time by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Let the billions of people around the world do that and provide us these goods—high quality, dirt cheap.”

In 2014, Johnson told the Journal Sentinel outsourcing had been “quite beneficial to America.”

Most recently, in February, Johnson said he would not ask Oshkosh Defense to make Wisconsin its base for manufacturing a new generation of US Postal Service trucks—even though the company based in his hometown had recently won a government contract to build 165,000 vehicles. Instead, the firm is likely going to put the jobs in South Carolina with a non-union workforce 

Johnson’s pro-outsourcing sentiments have struck a chord with some of his campaign donors, according to Federal Elections Commission records of contributions to his campaign and affiliated political action committees (PACs).

Executives from the Briggs & Stratton Corporation have donated nearly $9,000 to Johnson during his career. In 2021, Briggs & Stratton laid off 228 Wisconsin workers because it was cheaper to import a similar product from China. In 2010, Johnson took $1,000 from Briggs & Stratton CEO Todd Teske, who in 2021, ended his company retiree benefits as the company went under but took an $8 million golden parachute for himself. 

In 2010, Johnson also received $3,400 from the president of Northern Engraving, a company that in 2021 moved 180 jobs from La Crosse to Mexico, claiming labor was cheaper. 

Eaton Corporation and its executives donated $4,200 to Johnson, even though between 2014 and 2021 Eaton laid off 425 Wisconsin workers and outsourced their jobs to Mexico and China. 

Johnson also received at least $23,500 from Pitney Bowes, Inc., which in 2014 and 2015 outsourced jobs from Wisconsin to Panama, the Philippines, and India. 

Johnson furthermore received at least $7,400 from executives of HUSCO International, a company that had $350,000 in state tax credits revoked in 2016 after it outsourced 90 jobs from Waukesha

Assurant, which in 2013 offshored 130 jobs from Milwaukee to India, provided at least $5,500 in donations to Johnson.

Johnson also received $4,000 from RockTenn, a company that in 2013 laid off 125 of its employees in Milwaukee and transferred their jobs overseas, and  $20,500 from Anthem Insurance Companies/Wellpoint, Inc., a company that in 2012 outsourced Wisconsin jobs overseas.

After Johnson’s outsourcing remarks in 2020, US Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth) called Johnson “stunningly out of touch.”

“It was spoken like a true robber baron would speak,” Pocan said. “It’s pretty amazing that the senator from a state that has been hit so hard by outsourcing, by jobs going to Mexico and overseas, would find the answer to providing families with family-supporting wages is to continue to outsource more things overseas.”