So that happened.
Union workers at Mercury Marine voted to accept the stunning contract offer from management at Brunswick. Workers at the plant in Fond du Lac were given two basic choices ” as one union guy put it ” cut off your leg, and accept a seven-year pay freeze, or cut off your head, and reject the ridiculous contract and let Merc move operation to a non-union plant in Stillwater, Oklahoma. At least if youre missing a leg, youve still got a chance.
Turns out the unions arent the only ones that have to make sacrifices at the altar of corporate greed. Every resident and visitor to Fond du Lac County has to chip in to pay a bounty to Merc Marine in the form of a first-ever sales tax for the county. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fond du Lac County will make up to $50 million available to Merc in the form of low-interest loans.
Its hard to argue with the impact Merc Marines departure would have had on Fond du Lac. The FDL Economic Development Corp. says almost 6,000 jobs in the county are directly or indirectly impacted by Merc and the boating giant does business with about 250 county vendors . So if Merc goes, Fondy becomes the next Flint, Michigan.
Which is exactly what these corporate titans want. When a community becomes so dependent on the survival of a single corporation, the entire community is held hostage. If a corporation doesnt get what they want ” whether its concessions from the union, never-ending tax breaks, looser regulations for polluting the environment ” the CEO just threatens to move somewhere that will give more money, less rules and no unions. Could be Oklahoma, could be China.
Corporate scare-tactics like this are nothing new. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance constantly complain that Wisconsin is bad for business. They push for handouts to corporations and less regulation ” Jim Buchen from WMC, who has clamored non-stop for lower taxes actually cheered the new tax in Fond du Lac. And why wouldnt he? Instead of going to vital public services like infrastructure or health care we all can utilize, the sales tax is being funneled directly to corporate interests. Corporate Welfare at its finest.
This corporate stranglehold must be broken. Wisconsin and the nation must do more to support entrepreneurs and small businesses ” that doesnt mean more tax breaks for corporations, either! It starts with real health care reform to reduce the increasing burden on small businesses. It means making large employers provide a decent health care package to all of their employees or else pay a fine. It means more accountability for health insurance corporations who are sucking the air from our economy.
But it also means voting with our dollars. Our favorite local businesses depend on our support. Thats why Ive joined the 3/50 Project and committed to supporting three independent, local, brick-and-mortar stores with at least $50 of my dollars each month. I buy music at B-Side on State rather than Best Buy (the prices are better anyways!). I get my outdoor gear at Fontana, not Dicks. And my dog gets food and treats at MadCat, not Mounds.
Think about where you spend your money. Dont prop up these corporations that so willingly pit one community against the other and demand more and more from working families. Maybe then we can start loosening the choke hold corporations have on our communities and government.