Wisconsin is one of the top manufacturing states in the country. Iconic companies like Harley Davidson, Briggs and Stratton, Rockwell Automation, Caterpillar and Proctor & Gamble or homegrown brands like Appleton Coated and Marinette Marine make up nearly one-fifth of the state’s economy, contributing over $57 B output every year.
This crucial component of our state’s economy support over 472,000 jobs. Many of these jobs are family-supporting jobs offering good benefits. In fact, the average annual compensation is just under $70,000. However, threats loom on the horizon – unprepared workforce, anti-labor laws, short-sighted incentive packages and unfair trade deals. The good news is that we can overcome these obstacles with a well-thought out strategy — a return to common sense basics.
Prepare our workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Over the last decade of Republican rule, Wisconsin has seen over $1,000,000,000 slashed in funding for schools, technical colleges, and the university system. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. And in this case it’s Wisconsin businesses and workers who are now footing the bill for a penny wise pound foolish strategy. Chronically underfunded education and training programs have left the entire state woefully unprepared. The answer is simple. Go back to what state government is supposed to do, adequately fund all public education and worker training from Pre-K to PhD.
Empower workers and restore their rights. We must begin the long journey of repairing the sacrosanct labor-management partnership and culture. We must never forget it was the state’s labor movement that created the Middle Class and at the same time built an entire industry. We will repeal wage suppression policies that discourage labor-management cooperation, from so-called “Right to Work” to prevailing wage to project labor agreements. And we shouldn’t stop there. We should make labor a partner in economic development – in manufacturing and across all industries. History shows us when we work together we can accomplish great things.
Invest in good jobs for Wisconsinites. We need to create smart incentive packages that stimulate long-term growth and create family supporting jobs. And we should make it a priority to focus on Wisconsin industry and business. I know who I work for – the people of our community and our state – our workers, our families, our homegrown innovators and businesses. Throwing money at huge companies like Foxconn at the expense of Wisconsin’s generational companies or first-time entrepreneurs is foolish and unfair.
Make trade deals that work for Wisconsin. We need to make trade a state issue. Few states have been hit harder than Wisconsin by unfair trade deals. Under NAFTA, Wisconsin lost a net 68,000 jobs. Many more were threatened by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Legislators in a top manufacturing state like ours have a special duty to advocate for workers. I’ll work with fellow state legislators and the Governor as well as our Congressional delegation and labor leaders to stop bad trade deals that hurt our workers. We can forge a new model for fair trade deals that put the interests of workers, our environment, and consumer protections before those of big corporations.