Op Ed

Hire Local Unemployed at Foxconn

State should enforce hiring agreements, provide transportation for area workers.

By - Feb 2nd, 2018 10:40 am
Foxconn chairman Terry Gou and Governor Scott Walker signing a memorandum of understanding. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Foxconn chairman Terry Gou and Governor Scott Walker signing a memorandum of understanding. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

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.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics, Real Estate

5 thoughts on “Op Ed: Hire Local Unemployed at Foxconn”

  1. Terry says:

    Not going to happen. Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans have already blown another 7 million of taxpayers’ money on a campaign to “lure millenials from Chicago and the Twin Cities.” Never going to happen. Why? Because no thoughtful educated cosmopolitan young person wants to live in Walker’s backwards, regressive low wage, socially conservative Wississippi. Yeah, let me quit.my good job and leave my progressive, economically thriving hipster haven, which honors gay rights abortion rights and has legal medical and soon responsible adult cannabis laws, just so I can move to Walker’s Wississippi and have my basic civil rights under constant threat, just so I can work at a TV screen factory with a horrible reputation, working a low wage soon to be automated or innovated into nonexistence job that is 100% subsidized by Wisconsin taxpayers!? Come on y’all. Not going to happen! Americans want social and economic freedom. Walker’s Wississippi provides neither.

    Wisconsin got Foxconned by republicans!
    Dump Walker 2018!

  2. Rita Reinke says:

    Thanks Prof. Rosen; Your article speaks to all the issues that are also on my mind..
    Education, transportation, housing could all be addressed, but may not be, unfortunately…
    I won’t add more at this point because you’ve covered all the bases: education, transportaion, housing.
    And how does one get the Governor and his constituents to listen to this?
    Thank you..

  3. Thomas Shaffer says:

    Mike, we might want to look at a well written First Source hiring agreement for this company. Tom Shaffer
    Email tshaffer59@yahoo.com

  4. Thomas says:

    Amen, Mike,

    Build the means to get workers from Milwaukee and Racine to Foxconn, and they will work there. That connection is essential to the success of Foxconn. Without it, taxpayers in WI will be simply conned.

  5. Rita Reinke says:

    What is the “First Source Hiring Agreement”? Is it part of the Foxcomm deal?
    Does it meant hire WI employees first, or Foxcomm doesn’t get $$$?

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us