KENOSHA, Wis. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday tied major plant closures and job losses in Wisconsin to trade policies that he opposed and Hillary Clinton supported.
At a rally ahead of next Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary, the Vermont senator said disastrous trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China are a major factor in the shuttering of nearly 60,000 factories and the loss of 4.7 million manufacturing jobs in the United States since 2001, including more than 113,000 lost jobs in Wisconsin.
“Over the last 35 years, we have had trade policies written by corporate America designed to allow companies to shut down plants in Wisconsin and Vermont and all over this country” Sanders told a rally at Carthage College. “They’d rather move to Mexico and pay people pennies an hour.”
For example, here in Kenosha, Chrysler received an $8 billion bailout in 2009 but then shut down the Kenosha Engine Plant and cut 800 decent-paying jobs. The carmaker moved the plant to Saltillo, Mexico, where workers are paid a fraction of what they made in Wisconsin.
In 2008, General Motors shuttered its manufacturing plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, eliminating more than 2,800 good-paying jobs when it moved to Silao, Mexico, where workers are paid one-tenth of what the workers in Janesville made.
Strattec Security, with headquarters in Milwaukee, announced in January that it would build a manufacturing plant for car door handles, not in Wisconsin, but in Leon, Mexico.
Briggs & Stratton, once Wisconsin’s largest private employer with 11,000 manufacturing workers, has moved plants to Mexico and China and today has only has about 2,500 workers in the Badger State.
In his speech to 2,500 supporters at the college here, Sanders also called for reforming the corrupt campaign finance system that props up the rigged economy. He said he would reform criminal justice system, expand Social Security, provide tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities and create universal Medicare-for-all health care.
He criticized Clinton’s reliance on super PACs, which he said raised $25 million in special interest funds, including $15 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street, during the last half of last year. “We don’t represent Wall Street. We don’t represent the drug companies or the fossil fuel industry. We don’t want their money,” said Sanders.
He also faulted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his attacks on labor unions, cuts to education and support of a voter ID law in an attempt to keep voter turnout low. “Let’s show the governor that his efforts to suppress the vote have not worked,” Sanders said.