“The idea that [Ron Johnson]’s fine with our jobs going out of state, like in Oshkosh, where we had the opportunity to create 1,000 good-paying union jobs. He was okay with that,” Barnes said during a campaign event this week. “He was okay with that because it’s not about us, it’s about lining the pockets of his wealthy donors.”
Mandela Barnes is renewing his criticism of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for his failure to keep jobs in Wisconsin.
Barnes, the state’s lieutenant governor and Johnson’s Democratic opponent in November, laid into the two-term incumbent this week over his failure to push Oshkosh Defense to locate 1,000 new jobs in its unionized facility in Oshkosh.
The company, which last year landed a multi-billion dollar federal contract to build up to 65,000 US Postal Service trucks, chose to produce the vehicles in South Carolina rather than its hometown plant. The decision was not the first time the company decided to outsource jobs to a non-union state, and it drew significant backlash.
“The idea that [Johnson’s] fine with our jobs going out of state, like in Oshkosh, where we had the opportunity to create 1,000 good paying union jobs–he was okay with that,” Barnes said during a campaign event on Monday. “He was okay with that because it’s not about us, it’s about lining the pockets of his wealthy donors, but that stops now.”
Johnson, who helped ram through a 2017 tax cut that benefited large corporations and his own billionaire donors, downplayed the impact of the company’s decision and declined to pressure executives to reverse course.
“It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin,” Johnson said in February.
Barnes, meanwhile, called on the Biden administration and Congress to intervene.
“I urge you to do everything in your power to reverse this decision,” Barnes wrote in a letter to federal leaders. “This contract would create nearly 1,000 good paying union jobs and be an incredible boost to a state and region that are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and whose workers have all too often gotten the short end of the stick due to outsourcing and offshoring.”
Barnes also wrote directly to Oshkosh Defense’s board of directors and CEO John Pfeifer directly, urging them to reconsider.
“For nearly one hundred years the workers of UAW Local 578 have been building the highest quality vehicles in the country. These men and women are the backbone of the Oshkosh Corporation, and of the Fox Cities,” Barnes wrote. “As the son of a 30-year UAW worker, I can tell you without question that if you want these trucks built and built right, building them here in Wisconsin with union labor is by far your best option.”
The company went ahead with its plan to locate jobs in South Carolina, but its contract with USPS continues to receive scrutiny and now faces three lawsuits. The lawsuits aren’t directly related to Oshkosh’s decision of where to locate the new jobs but have nonetheless kept pressure on the company ahead of another expected federal contract in the coming months.
The company has suggested it plans to keep that work in Wisconsin, but whether that happens remains to be seen.