“They extract everything they can.”
That’s one expert’s description of how Foxconn, a Taiwanese-based manufacturer of consumer electronics, approaches negotiations over incentives to lure its facilities.
With Wisconsin being targeted for a new Foxconn manufacturing plant, and Gov. Scott Walker in full re-election mode with a desperate need for new talking points to explain away his now 7-year-old unfulfilled promise to create 250,000 jobs in four years, the pump is primed to mortgage our state’s future for Walker’s short-term political gain.
State Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald, who has been privy to the secret negotiations, described the giveaway being offered as potentially including, “huge, big numbers.”
The public, the press and elected officials need to ask some tough questions about what’s on the table and demand some straight answers, now.
Questions like: Will state funds that could repay the millions stripped from K-12 public schools by Gov. Walker and Republicans instead be diverted to boost the profits of a foreign-based corporation?
Or a real basic question, like just how many jobs, exactly, are being promised by Foxconn?
The history of Foxconn promising major investments in facilities and gaudy numbers of jobs versus the reality of what they do, or don’t, deliver ought to create more skepticism.
In Pennsylvania, a 2013 promise to invest $30 million in a new manufacturing facility remains unfulfilled. Overtures in Arizona and Colorado have produced nothing. In fact, there is a global pattern of Foxconn not delivering on promised investments in facilities or job creation.
Today we can’t, or won’t, pay to adequately maintain the roads we already have. Will scarce resources be committed to build roads to nowhere in southeastern Wisconsin, and leave roads and bridges used by actual people going to actual jobs across the state crumbling?
What else don’t we know about the alleged jobs we may pay mightily to lure? Certainly Foxconn’s reputation as an employer raises red flags. In 2010 over a dozen workers at Chinese Foxconn operations reportedly committed suicide or attempted to kill themselves by jumping off rooftops. The company responded by installing “safety nets.”
Wisconsin factories might not need “suicide nets,” but what assurances will we have on working conditions? Will employees be able to choose to be represented by a union? Will they have health care benefits? What will the jobs pay?
And, finally, what happens if Foxconn doesn’t keep promises of investments and job creation? Once spent, will state taxpayers be able to recover the “big, huge numbers” of their dollars thrown at this overseas-based corporate giant?
As part of the efforts to lure Foxconn to Michigan, their legislature passed a tax giveaway worth roughly $200 million per year for 10 years, a $2 billion floor.
In Wisconsin, we have seen Republicans adopt a tax giveaway that nearly eliminates taxes on manufacturing, without requiring job creation. Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has been a piggy bank for campaign supporters, even giving out a loan that was used by a recipient to make payments on his luxury sports car.
Wisconsin has a hard-working, well-qualified workforce and limitless potential if we believe and invest in ourselves. Or we can join a desperate race to the bottom that mortgages our future for the short-term political gain of Gov. Walker and his fellow Republicans.
Which path will our elected officials choose in their pursuit of Foxconn? It’s time for answers.
Scot Ross is the executive director of One Wisconsin Now.
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