Monday, May 28, 2018

In Walker's right-to-work state, good pay replaced by less

[Updated from 1:39 p.m.] I'm guessing that Walker won't be sporting a Foxconn hat at the next Harley-Davidson ride through Milwaukee.

For one reason, Harley-Davidson has cut jobs in Milwaukee, then closed its Kansas City plant, yet showered some of the Paul Ryan/Donald Trump tax cut bounty on its stockholders. 
Days after it announced the plant closure, the company announced the dividend increase that would reward shareholders and cost the company about $846,000.  
The stock buyback plan, which has the effect of boosting share prices, was another expense of $696 million at the time, both to benefit shareholders. 
That came on the heels of the company's corporate tax cut from 35% to 21% percent and its previous announcement last year that a new motorcycle assembly plant in Thailand would open later this year.
For the record, I'd noted years ago that using public offices and power to reward corporations, shareholders and top-earning managers was always the Scott Walker, 'love-big-government' plan in Wisconsin, and I noted more recently there would be the same, predictable conclusion to the Trump-Ryan tax cut, too: 
The lying about tax cuts for business that will, presto!, create jobs is getting louder in Washington.
Paul Ryan and Scott Walker keep on mouthing the old GOP bromide that tax cuts like those demanded by Donald Trump will lead suddenly-flush businesses to invest in jobs...
Because corporations will use tax savings to boost their bottom lines, increase dividends, add management bonuses, raise top salaries and directors' fees and acquire other businesses which almost inevitably leads to more layoffs, reduced competition and higher consumer and prices across wholesale and retail markets.
So, bottom line: what H-D did is no surprise.

And while union and company officials have argued about whether Kansas City plant equipment and jobs are being moved directly to the H-D operation in Thailand, there is no argument that the company continues to expand its overseas business.

Where, I imagine, some of the new bikes Scott Walker saw and touted in 2013 at a new H-D dealership in China on one of his many, self-promotional trade mission junkets will have more to do with Thai production than Milwaukee. 

TIANJIN, CHINA, April 16, 2013 – Today, Governor Scott Walker attended the opening ceremony of the Harley-Davidson dealership in Tianjin, China, as part of his trade mission to China taking place April 13-21. 
“I am glad to see Harley-Davidson is rapidly growing in China,” said Governor Walker. 
And keep in mind that investment companies and senior managers are routinely among a company's biggest shareholders, so there are multiple levels to these moves which benefit people at the top of the economic scale - - benefits not aimed at the working people losing their jobs.

Some of whom had already taken cuts through concessions spelled out in this seven-year deal with Harley workers dating to 2010

Harley-Davidson workers in southeastern Wisconsin approved a labor contract Monday laden with steep concessions after the company threatened to move hundreds of production jobs out of the state. 
The proposed deal freezes employees’ pay, slashes hundreds of jobs and assigns large volumes of work to part-time workers.
The Kansas City workers hit by the plant closing were enveloped in this jargon-laden sendoff in the company's 2017 annual letter to shareholders describing...
...a significant, multi-year manufacturing optimization initiative anchored by the consolidation of our final assembly plant in Kansas City into our plant in York, Pennsylvania. This decision was made after very careful consideration of our manufacturing footprint and the appropriate capacity given the current business environment; it is geared to improve our cost structure while maintaining our world-class manufacturing operations. 
Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City employees have worked hard to deliver exceptional, high-quality products to our customers and we thank them for their commitment and dedication.
Walker has always been eager to deploy company gear and well-publicized motorcycle rides to grab pretend alignment with the brand, and the culture, and, by implication, the blue-collar workers who assemble it all.

But Walker's political agendas and ideological commitments to strip workers of pay, rights and clout can get lost in the noisy rumble of motorcycle engines and his intentional campaign distraction - - so don't forget:

* His signature, big-donor-pleasing divide-and-conquer Act 10 move to blow up public sector collective bargaining.

* Followed by signing union-busting right-to-work legislation rushed through the legislature to conform to his brief, far-right run for the Presidency in 2015 though he'd distanced himself from the measure during his 2014 gubernatorial run.

*  Followed by his more recent final approval of the elimination of relatively-higher. 'prevailing wage' rates for work on public building and road projects.

Speaking of which: Foxconn.

None of those prevailing wage levels are guaranteed anymore to anyone working on new roads being rushed to completion for Foxconn projected to require $630 million taxpayer, road-building dollars.

In a state with the second-worst-repaired roads in America, leading to the assignment of nicknames ranging from "Governor Pothole" to "Scottholes" for the governor and his negligence.

And I doubt there will be a lot of Foxconn assembly work - - where workers will have to get from home to a factory being located in a Walker/GOP transit-deprived area over rutted roads - - at anywhere near what is still paid to Harley-Davidson production line workers.

I'd noted recently that some assembly work at other Foxconn outlets in the US pays at the below-livable-rate of $9-per-hour.

Though Foxconn is receiving at Walker's initiative a per-worker, big-picture-job-killing subsidy level of $200,000.

Sounds like a bad deal to me.

Made worse because the company has set a priority on introducing robots in its plants. Maybe robot assembly is where the job security is at Foxconn, rather than assembling flat screen TVs.

These days, Walker is all over Twitter and traditional media spouting his latest Foxconn talking-point and buzzword - - "supply-chain" - - shorthand for the contracting work he says the project in Racine County will provide, even out-state.

Though there is plenty of documented belief that Foxconn is just another big-dollar state investment aimed at residents of bigger cities regionally, from Chicago to Milwaukee, and businesses nearer by, than, say, Eau Claire or La Crosse or Wausau. 

Of course, Walker had no interest in the supply chain and payroll handed to Wisconsin by then-President Barack Obama and former Governor Jim Doyle through a $800 million Amtrak expansion, train-assembly and spin-off employment bonanza.

Walker derailed that expansion; Illinois just to the south is now home to massive train assembly factories, where, one presumes, a healthy supply chain fuels production and jobs which could have been Wisconsin's.

All because Walker was more committed to personal posturing and partisan politics than job creation and common sense budgeting.

Walker was dedicated to killing rail transit of any kind that he allowed the state to forfeit a fresh $10 million in cash and ownership of completed trains because Wisconsin willfully broke a contract with Talgo, an Amtrak train builder.

A business which had already opened an assembly and maintenance facility in a low-income Milwaukee neighborhood. 

That way, Walker could have his  'victory' over Obama and chalk up another defeat for transit to please his road-builder friends. 

Supply chain? Not for that train.

A full archive about Walker's rail hostility and stupidity is here.  

Ad a separate archive about Foxconn is here.

Regrettably, they're related to the actions of this political disaster, pictured below:

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