President Obama spoke to a cheering crowd of Master Lock employees Wednesday. The president cited the central city company as an example of what he intends to promote – manufacturing growth in the U. S. As WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson reports, Master Lock decided to bring 100 jobs back here from China.
The president greeted hundreds of workers and union members on the factory floor at Master Lock. When he took the podium, he told the crowd the economy is beginning to turn around, and for the first time since 1990, manufacturing is growing.
“When I took office the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse and there were some folks who said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake I refused to let that happen. We said in exchange for help, we’re going to demand responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to restructure and retool, come up with better designs. Today, the American auto industry is back and once again General Motors is the number one automaker in the world,” Obama says.
President Obama says another reason things are slowly picking up in the U.S. is the fact that the cost of doing business overseas is rising in some instances. For example, there are workers demanding higher wages.
“You’ve all heard enough about outsourcing. More and more companies like Master Lock are now insourcing, deciding that if the cost of doing business here isn’t too much different than the cost of doing business in places like China, then why wouldn’t you rather do it right here in the United States of America?” Obama asks.
Yet the President says there is still much work to do. He called on Congress to pass a bill giving tax incentives to companies that keep jobs here and legislation providing more money for job training.
“I’ve asked Congress to join me in a national commitment to train two million workers with skills that will lead directly to a job. We need to give community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers, places that teach people the skills that businesses like Master Lock are looking for right now,” Obama says.
While the White House billed Wednesday’s event here as an official visit, there were times when the President’s address sounded like a campaign speech. In his closing remarks, President Obama promised the country will not go back to policies of the past, when outsourcing became commonplace. He then stepped off the podium and shook hands with workers and other people in the crowd. Alisha Adams has been working at Master Lock for only eight months. Beforehand, she was unemployed for more than a year.
“I used to work at a bank in finance and I was laid off. I went to a temp service and that’s how I got in at Master Lock. I kept applying for jobs, I had the skills. I had the background, but nobody would hire me,” Adams says.
Another employee has been there more than 20 years - Mike Schuknecht. He says job stability led him to purchase a condo recently on the Florida coast. Yet, he says not everybody wants a job working in a factory.
“You know how hot it gets here in summer? It’s very hot. They come through here with water, they come through here with soda. It gets hot. Manufacturing is not for everybody. It’s a tough job,” Schuknecht says.
Schuknecht thinks the country is heading in the right direction, and most people in the crowd seemed pleased with the President. His speech however drew criticism from Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brad Courtney. He says the President has not lived up to his pledge to turn around the economy by the end of his first term. It ends in less than a year.