Last week, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Senate voted to approve the largest corporate welfare package to a foreign company in U.S. history and yesterday Governor Scott Walker signed it. Based on a handwritten memorandum of understanding (MOU), with roughly 15 words and the signatures of Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, we are now on track to provide the company an incentive package worth up to $3 billion in tax credits. In voting on Foxconn, legislators had a responsibility to ensure that this deal was fair, expanded opportunities for Wisconsin workers and includes strong community protections.
Simply put, it isn’t. In terms of fairness, economists have estimated that Wisconsin will pay $67,000-$100,000 to subsidize these jobs, perhaps for as many as 10-40% non-state residents. Democrats pushed for preference in hiring for Wisconsin residents or businesses. However, a number of these jobs are going to Illinois residents or others who will migrate to the state. There have been questions raised about whether Wisconsin had a workforce that would be trained and ready to fill the estimated 3,000 jobs purported to be available in 2020 and the answer remains unknown. Although the deal includes $20 million dollars in training for area workers, we’ve had estimates from one college that they could need as much as $5 million dollars alone to get ramped up and ready to go. However, that’s just two flags.
In thinking about access and opportunity, I have consistently expressed my frustration that for more years than I care to count, the African-American community has been in double-digit unemployment. Often ranging from 11-19 percent across the board, and nearly 50 percent for African-American men, the research tells us that the loss of manufacturing jobs it this demographic the hardest. When asked about the ability to connect the most unemployed or underemployed to the proposed Foxconn site in Racine/Mt. Pleasant, the administration had no plan or showed little interest in addressing regional transit concerns. US census data consistently demonstrates that individuals at or below the poverty line, are often 80 percent more unlikely to own a car and rely on public transit. We continue to build companies and facilities beyond the reach of many state residents.
Notably, overall hiring of the company was also a red flag. According to Beltmag.com, at the Foxconn factory in Plainfield, Indiana, former employees described a corporate and management culture that treated Indiana workers as disposable; that favored Taiwanese nationals for management and advancement; and that heavily relied on undocumented workers. So what are the opportunities for women, differently abled residents, or other demographic groups? Since not a single Foxconn representative met with the Joint Committee on Finance, attended any public hearings, or bothered to meet with legislators in the capitol, we didn’t get a chance to address their record on diversity and inclusion.
Finally, on community protections, environmental concerns regarding the expected 16 million gallons of daily expected water use, pollutants, dumping, and other issues went unaddressed. The red flags were there in this deal and far too many legislators, business and community leaders have chosen to ignore them.