By Jordan Heller
Governor Scott Walker’s awful deal with Foxconn to trade $3 billion in taxpayer money for a shady promise of 13,000 so-called quality jobs passed the Wisconsin State Senate on Tuesday. The bill passed in a party-line vote that saw 19 out of 20 GOP lawmakers voting for the legislation, and 12 out of 13 Democrats voting against it.
“A fresh perspective is important in any debate and the reporting by Belt magazine provided insight from the often forgotten workers here in the Rust Belt.”
Though Senate approval was a foregone conclusion, Democratic lawmakers put up a fight on the Wisconsin Senate floor prior to the vote, reading directly from a Belt magazine article, published Monday, reporting that a majority of the workforce at Foxconn’s Indiana factory — currently the Taiwanese tech manufacturing giant’s largest stateside operation — are undocumented immigrants, and that foreign workers on H-1B visas are favored for management and engineer positions.
“If we got past the partisanship, and you just listened and brought us to the table,” said Sen. Lena Taylor, a Democrat who represents the Milwaukee area, addressing her Republican colleagues, “you wouldn’t be doing the amendments after we’ve embarrassed you on the deal.”
Sen. Taylor continued by paraphrasing Belt’s reporting: “You would be hearing the people in Indiana saying that most of their workers [are] undocumented…. Whenever they would know that ICE was coming, management had a wink and a nod, and all of a sudden, when ICE came, many seats would be empty. [Belt’s source] added that management appeared to be more interested in rock-bottom wages, dodging the cost of expensive benefits, and maintaining their ability to lay off and rehire for seasonal demand.”
Sen. Taylor’s Democratic colleague, Sen. Janis Ringhand — who represents a portion of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s U.S. Congressional district — used Belt’s reporting in railing against Foxconn’s heavy reliance on H-1B visa holders for skilled positions at its stateside facilities.
“I have before me a report from Plainfield, Indiana, where there is a Foxconn plant,” Sen. Ringhand said, referring to Belt’s article. “A person there states, ‘When you looked out over a floor of 6,000 workers and saw 50 or so Asians, you knew right away who the engineers and bosses are.’ It goes on to explain that these are folks who are H-1B visa holders. They are not helping our economy.”
The $3 billion subsidy, which would be the the largest ever giveaway by a U.S. state to a foreign company, gets a final vote today by the Wisconsin State Assembly. With 64 Republican and 34 Democratic assembly members, the deal is as good as done.
When reached for comment about her usage of Belt’s reporting on the Wisconsin State Senate floor, Sen. Ringhand said, “Most of the information available regarding the $3 billion corporate welfare package in Wisconsin has come from the political supporters of the deal. A fresh perspective is important in any debate and the reporting by Belt magazine provided insight from the often forgotten workers here in the Rust Belt.”