Jobs on the line: Gov. Walker promises “unified” response to Waukesha GE plant shutdown plans

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WAUKESHA -- Gov. Scott Walker pledged Tuesday that state and local officials would have a "unified effort" against General Electric's plans to eliminate 350 jobs at its Waukesha plant.

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

GE representatives have blamed Congress for failing to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, calling it the "primary" reason for its decision to move gas engine production from Waukesha to Canada.

The Ex-Im Bank allows foreign governments and companies to get U.S.-backed loans to buy GE products.  U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, has called the program "corporate welfare," and Walker said earlier this year that he would eliminate it if he were president.

"Unfortunately, I think (the jobs) are pawns in a larger political battle being played out in Washington," Walker said Tuesday, declining to say whether he still believed the Ex-Im Bank should be eliminated.

"I think it's unwise for any corporation to be making decisions on where they place work based on one particular vote in the Congress," the governor said.

Walker said he and Waukesha city and county officials were holding a conference call Tuesday about how to convince GE to keep gas engine production in Waukesha.

Union representatives said they took GE officials "at their word" about the reason for their decision, turning their anger to Republican lawmakers over Ex-Im reauthorization.

"For (workers) to be losing their jobs really because of what the GOP has done in Congress is really a shock to the system," said Alex Hoekstra, business director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 10 in Milwaukee.

General Electric Waukesha GE

Hoekstra said there remains time to work out the problems, because it could take 18 months to two years for GE to build the planned facility in Canada.

Earlier this year, while testing the waters for a presidential run, Walker said he favored eliminating the Export-Import Bank, according to multiple news reports.

The U.S. Senate voted in July to reauthorize the program, but Republicans in the U.S. House allowed the program to lapse. Walker, in not taking a position himself, noted that Wisconsin's GOP congressional delegation is split on the issue.

A GE spokesman said Monday that the company couldn't compete in some foreign markets without access to Ex-Im financing.

General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt previously worked at GE facilities in Waukesha. Walker said he was waiting to develop a strategy with local officials before meeting with GE executives.

President Barack Obama visited the GE Power and Water plant in January 2014, praising the company and its workers.

GE Power & Water Waukesha

GE Power & Water Waukesha

The union feels like even if there is time to work this out, GE still has to build the facility in Canada.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has drafted a letter to Governor Scott Walker, asking that Walker join him in "demanding Congress take the appropriate action to save these jobs, and perhaps, thousands of other Wisconsin jobs."

READ IT: Letter from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to Governor Walker on GE, Export-Import Bank.

6 comments

  • Opinion8d

    No Mary, it’s actually GE!! This clearly isn’t a decision that GE just came up with. You don’t invest that kind of money and strategic maneuvering of a product line in a matter of weeks or even months. This was clearly a longer term plan by GE, just using the Export-Import Bank as cover. Since Obama and Jeff Immelt are such great buddies, one would think Obama could step in and leverage that decision. But why not let it be a ‘political’ victory for the Democrats so they can blame the Republicans. It’s great the Democrats can plan both sides -always say the GOP is pro-corporate/big business, but then blame them when they’re not….because jobs are lost -you can’t have it both ways (well I guess you can with the MSM on your side).

    • American Greed

      The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds.
      The study, by two left-leaning non-profit groups, found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

      The Center for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund used the companies’ own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions.
      The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens.

  • Opinion8d

    So John, what did you think about the Bucks arena deal?? Was it corporate welfare for a bunch of rich guys or a smart investment in the future of Milwaukee??? In the case of the Bucks, they had options to go elsewhere that would give them the funding they wanted, and take the jobs/revenue out of Milwaukee/WI. And yet people were totally against supporting the Bucks/corporate welfare. Yet blame the Republicans instead of GE here. Immelt is in bed with Obama – I’m sure he could help out…… (and check out my other comment for more perspective)

  • toby

    According to Walker, when someone else takes jobs away from Wisconsin they’re “pawns in a political battle” but, when Walker deliberately and unabashedly takes jobs away from Wisconsin it’s for the greater good. What a hypocrite! Everything Walker’s done that caused jobs to go elsewhere or not come here to begin with is all based on his twisted evil politics. If anyone believes otherwise, they’re just as twisted and evil as Walker is.

  • American Greed

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds, according to a study released on Tuesday.

    The study, by two left-leaning non-profit groups, found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

    The Center for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund used the companies’ own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions.

    Technology firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three overseas tax havens.

    The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft is holding $108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries and drug company Pfizer is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries.

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