Walker attacks Burke on outsourcing; will he now censure his friends?

It was bound to come: the full frontal assault on Mary Burke over outsourcing. In fact, I predicted this months ago. This doesn’t make me a genius, of course. I also predicted Ted Nugent would eventually make overtly racist comments about Barack Obama that could make an 18th century Boston longshoreman expectorate his porridge for a fortnight. But hey, the magic day has arrived at last, and we all get to find out what a pure patriot Scott Walker is.

The Walker campaign, which to be fair is dealing with a dismal jobs record that’s unlikely to improve by Election Day, recently came out with an ad attacking Burke for allegedly making all her riches on outsourced labor. You can find the ad at ScottWalker.com, which I can assure you is not a malicious phishing site that will automatically download 12 gigs’ worth of exceedingly NSFW photos depicting a progressively libidinous sequence of encounters between Khloe Kardashian and Red Buttons.

Anyway, I understand that you may not want to actually click on the Walker campaign link, so I’ve transcribed most of the ad, in which a grandmother reads a touching bedtime story to her grandchildren about Trek Bicycle Corp., which Burke’s father founded:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your fortune grow? By making millions of dollars sending jobs overseas that could have been done in Wisconsin to countries where women and children labor up to 12 hours a day making only $2 an hour.

Ha ha ha. That’s a good one. I’m sure when Walker first saw what the creative geniuses in his employ had put together, he laughed so hard he spewed Colombian fair trade coffee from his nose and down the front of his 100% Wisconsin-made hempen business suit.

How fair is Walker’s ad? Well, according to John Burke, Mary’s brother and the current president of Trek, not very.

Speaking to the Associated Press, John Burke called the ad “absolutely false” and “embarrassing.”

From the AP story:

“We produce product in a lot of places and there are different wages for different jobs,” [John Burke] said when asked whether workers at the China plant earned $2 an hour. “We always pay in accordance to labor guidelines and rules and what’s the standard wage for the area. We’re very concerned for workers’ rights and the workers’ environment.”

Meanwhile, Burke has launched her own ad in response to the Walker campaign’s Trek ad. You can find that one here.

The irony*, of course, is that Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. was recently criticized for granting money to two companies that outsourced jobs to foreign countries — and to top it off, one of those companies received money after it had already outsourced jobs.

The two firms, Plexus Corp. and Eaton Corp., received millions in financial awards, and Eaton was awarded state money even after it had already shipped jobs to Mexico.

From WKOW.com:

In April of 2013, Eaton laid off 163 employees at its Cooper Power Systems plant in Pewaukee and announced it was moving those jobs to Mexico. Less than a year later, WEDC awarded Eaton Corp. with up to $1.36 million in additional tax credits for a proposed $54 million expansion at that same Pewaukee plant. 

So both candidates are vulnerable on this, right? Well, yes. And I’m really, really outraged as I type my thoughts into my Wisconsin-made Apple computer, pausing only to wipe the stray drops of Wisconsin-grown Starbucks coffee off my Wisconsin-sourced and Wisconsin-sewn Target polo shirt.

But as Wisconsin Business Alliance Exec Director (and, full disclosure, In Business magazine contributor) Lori Compas told WKOW, “What’s troubling … about this is that these companies were given tax dollars explicitly to keep jobs here in Wisconsin. To take taxpayers’ money and then turn around and fire hundreds of Wisconsin workers is a real slap in the face.”



So, yes, there is a difference between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. giving Wisconsin taxpayers’ money to companies that are sending jobs overseas and a private company trying to trim its labor costs. You can argue that both entities deserve criticism, but not all sins are created equal.

But now that Walker has found religion and is mortally offended by the very thought of American companies using foreign labor, I suppose we can expect him to sharply rebuke the following folks:

  • Senate Republicans, who in 2012 blocked a measure that would have made it harder for U.S. companies to outsource jobs and easier for businesses to bring them home.
  • All the business interests that have increased their profits through outsourcing and, directly or indirectly, contributed to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign, recall campaign, or re-election campaign. I trust the governor will do a thorough vetting of his supporters and demand every dollar made off the backs of low-paid foreign workers be returned.

We all know that Scott Walker is forever a friend of the workingman, so all three of these steps should be easy-peasy. I can’t wait. Meanwhile, greedy Mary Burke, who once sold her house so she could give more to the homeless, will be spending the bulk of her time polishing her doubloons with the tears of coolie laborers.

It’s going to be an interesting governor’s race, that’s for sure. Stay tuned.

*The second, and even richer irony, is that the WEDC until recently had touted Trek as a model Wisconsin company, distributing promotional material praising the bicycle maker. Last Friday, a WEDC spokesperson said the agency would be phasing out the pro-Trek ads. Quite a coincidence, huh?

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