Hire Local Unemployed at Foxconn
State should enforce hiring agreements, provide transportation for area workers.
Shouldn’t the money Wisconsin citizens pay in taxes be used to help Wisconsin residents get jobs rather than to lure workers from other states?
That’s a question I found myself asking after reading that the Walker administration wants to spend $6.8 million to lure people from Minneapolis, Detroit and Chicago to work at the new multi-billion-dollar Foxconn complex and other jobs.
What if we found ways to help Foxconn hire the unemployed and underemployed from Racine and Milwaukee?
The unprecedented $4 billion investment in Foxconn has been justified on the grounds that it will create family-supporting jobs. But so far, there has been virtually no discussion on how to connect Wisconsin’s own workers to these jobs.
Consider the city of Racine. It is several strip malls and farm fields away from the proposed Foxconn campus in Mount Pleasant. For many years, Racine has had the state’s highest unemployment rate. Milwaukee, the city with the second-highest unemployment rate, is just 25 miles away.
These cities were rated the third- and fourth-worst in America for African Americans in large part because their economies have been decimated by deindustrialization and de-unionization. In some neighborhoods, the jobless rates for African American males is above 50%.
There are more than 100,000 men and women in Milwaukee and Racine who want family-supporting employment. Many are working in low-wage, often part-time and temporary jobs, trying to make ends meet.
How can we connect these workers to Foxconn?
One solution is to develop local hiring agreements with Racine and Milwaukee.
Northwestern Mutual was very successful meeting local hiring goals when constructing its new office tower in downtown Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks are implementing a model local hiring agreement that covers construction and end-use jobs. Under Armour and its developers have a community benefits agreement with the city of Baltimore that guarantees local hiring and low-income housing construction. Gateway Technical College and Milwaukee Area Technical College are committed to providing training.
That’s the first step. But it’s not enough.
These workers frequently lack reliable transportation, a prerequisite for employment, and there is no public transportation that connects their neighborhoods to the Foxconn campus.
Why not make it easier for them to live in Mt. Pleasant or get there efficiently?
Reliable and frequent public transport needs to be established between Racine, Milwaukee and the Foxconn campus. Bus lines could be extended from Racine to Foxconn with relative ease and at a fraction of the close to $500 million we are spending to expand highways and I-94. It’s also a fraction of the cost of the potential $4 billion in subsidies that taxpayers may end up paying out to Foxconn, itself a billion-dollar company.
Foxconn also could emulate Silicon Valley companies, such as Facebook, which use their own buses to shuttle workers between San Francisco neighborhoods and jobs.
Another strategy: Build low-income housing in Mount Pleasant so workers can live close to their employer. This proposal may meet political opposition — the “not in my backyard” sentiment is real. But the state already has used eminent domain to secure land for Foxconn. Wisconsin should be no less aggressive in helping its workers live near the Foxconn campus.
Business leaders and elected officials frequently complain about a labor shortage they say is holding back the state’s economy. Yet our most populated cities have citizens ready to be trained and hungry for full-time, family-supporting jobs.
While the Foxconn subsidies remain controversial, and welfare-for-the-wealthy remains a hot-button political issue, one thing is clear:
It makes sense to help Wisconsin’s own workers get these jobs.
Michael Rosen is a retired professor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
- Op Ed: EPA Overrules Pruitt-Walker Smog Increases - James Rowen - Jun 7th, 2021
- Village Paid Foxconn Project Manager Nearly $1 Million - Corri Hess - May 28th, 2021
- Op Ed: Foxconn Shows Folly of Cheesehead Revolution - Dan Shafer - May 12th, 2021
- Foxconn Deal Doesn’t Reduce Local Government Risk - Corri Hess - May 3rd, 2021
- Murphy’s Law: The True Costs of New Foxconn Deal - Bruce Murphy - Apr 28th, 2021
- The State of Politics: All Sides Won On New Foxconn Deal - Steven Walters - Apr 26th, 2021
- New Foxconn Deal Cuts Incentives By $2.77 Billion - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 20th, 2021
- Rep Hintz: Statement on Approval of Revised Foxconn Contract - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Apr 20th, 2021
- New Foxconn and WEDC Agreement Provides Flexibility and Clarity for Renewed Tech Investments in Science and Technology Park - Foxconn Technology Group - Apr 20th, 2021
- Gov. Evers Announces Renegotiated Foxconn Contract to Save Taxpayers $2.77 Billion - Gov. Tony Evers - Apr 20th, 2021
Read more about Foxconn Facility here