Foxconn Comes to Wisconsin

The largest electronics manufacturing company in the world plans to open a factory to produce LCD screens in the Racine-Kenosha, area.

Walker is selling this deal as a gift graciously bestowed by the capitalists and their conservative administration, as indicated in his statement on July 26: “This is a once-in-a-century opportunity for our state and our country, and Wisconsin is ready . . . Foxconn plans to bring the future of high-tech manufacturing to America, and Wisconsin is going to lead the way. We are honored Foxconn chose Wisconsin, and I thank Terry Gou [chairman of Foxconn] for all he has done to make this happen.”

As the global crisis of capitalism continues, the ruling class seeks to balance budgets through austerity on the one hand, while forking out tax cuts and corporate welfare to “promote job growth” on the other. Workers are hurt at both ends, as funds for social welfare programs and public works are siphoned off for the capitalist class.

The proposed deal with Foxconn is the latest chapter in this saga. In exchange for a $3 billion investment of state funds over 15 years, and exemptions from standard environmental protection laws, Foxconn promises to create 13,000 jobs in an area hit hard by factory closings in the 1970s and 80s. While Walker hails the deal as a major step forward for job growth in Southern Wisconsin, the fine print reveals yet another blow struck against the working class.

Firstly, the $3 billion investment comes out of taxpayer funds, which puts the cost of raising capital for business on the backs of the working class. Instead of being used to improve schools or infrastructure, the money will be funneled into the pockets of the capitalists, giving Walker an excuse to cut social welfare spending elsewhere.

Secondly, LCD manufacturing requires a massive amount of water—as much as 15 million gallons of water a day—roughly the equivalent of what the entire city of Racine uses. This water would come from Lake Michigan, the major source of fresh water for millions of people in surrounding states, and the deal would exempt Foxconn from having to do any research into the environmental impact of waste dumping. In the aftermath of the capitalist-made disaster in nearby Flint, Michigan, this should set alarm bells ringing for all workers living on or near the lake‚ including the entire city of Chicago.

Furthermore, the claim that 13,000 jobs are in the pipeline is dubious at best. Foxconn plans to open the factory with 3,000 jobs and continue expanding over the years. However, the company also plans to automate as much of the process as possible, raising profits for the owners but cutting jobs for the workers who desperately need them. Some economists analyzing the deal suggest Foxconn could close the factory or move out of Wisconsin in about ten years, pocketing the cash paid by the state of Wisconsin without any “clawback” mechanism to hold Foxconn to the grand promises of the deal.

National chauvinism is scandalously used to justify the “investment” to “bring back manufacturing from China.” Trump called it “a great day today for . . . everybody who believes in the concept, in the label, Made in the USA.” All the while, the notorious workers’ rights abuses in factories overseas are swept under a rug. Many stories have come to light of Foxconn and other workers committing suicide in protest or due to the stress and intolerable conditions in thousands of factories across China. In 2012, workers went on strike and camped out on the roof of the Foxconn factory, threatening suicide if the company refused to negotiate.

For its part, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO put out a statement on August 1 in support of building the Foxconn factory. It called for various worker protection clauses to be added to the agreement, such as guaranteeing health insurance, paying a living wage, and allowing workers to join unions without interference. These demands are particularly important in light of Foxconn’s infamous hostility against collective bargaining and workers’ rights in general. But the AFL-CIO should have no illusions that the big business-controlled federal and state politicians will enforce these standards. Only organized workers at Foxconn, backed by the full strength of the Wisconsin labor movement can ensure safety, health, high wages, and benefits. Every penny of profit that Foxconn makes is from the work of its employees.

Unfortunately, the AFL-CIO frames these demands in a local-national-chauvinistic manner, not much different from how Trump touted the deal, pitting Wisconsin workers against the workers of the rest of the US and the world. Their statement included the following demands:

1. These Wisconsin jobs should not be undermined by immigration visas, such as the H1B and H2B visas that are often used to skip the hiring of local workers in favor of lower-wage, out-of-country workers, both in the skilled and unskilled levels.

2. The deal should protect against outsourcing or displacing Wisconsin workers with out-of-state or out-of-country workers. Any deal must specify that all of the jobs created through this deal stay in Wisconsin and that these jobs are not to be displaced by out-of-state or out-of-country workers.

Rather than falling into American and Wisconsin chauvinism, the labor leaders should be fighting for jobs for all and for the unionization of this and all Foxconn facilities worldwide, rather than waiting for the capitalist state assembly to grant their permission.

Beyond the empty promises to bring back manufacturing jobs in an era of economic crisis, Walker disregards the history of Foxconn’s treatment of workers they employ in other countries. In the final analysis, workers in China and the United States have the same enemy, the capitalist class, and must fight together to take control of the economy for ourselves, rather than fighting over the crumbs thrown to us by the capitalists.

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